Marjory Fleming (Pet Marjory)

I had thought that Marjory Fleming was just about forgotten now, plenty of people local to Kirkcaldy have never heard of her. So I was really surprised to discover that she was being discussed on Fleur Fisher Reads confessions of a Cornish bookworm – a lovely blog.I hadn’t heard of the Persephone book by Oriel Malet called Marjory Fleming but people seem to be enjoying reading it.

Fleur did reply to my comment that it sounds like I’m living in a lovely place so I think that Oriel has used her artistic licence as I would say that the Kirkcaldy area is one of the least scenic places in Scotland that I know of. It was probably very dirty and smelly when Marjory was living here too.

Marjory was happiest when she was living with her cousin in Edinburgh. Isabella encouraged Marjory to keep a journal, which she did until she died of meningitis when she was not quite 9 years old. I read it years ago and seem to remember that it was quite a charming but sad read given how quickly her life was over. She is buried in Abbotshall Churchyard, Kirkcaldy.

Probably nothing would ever have been known of her at all if it wasn’t for Sir Walter Scott who was a distant relative by marriage.

Abbotshall Church looks the same from the outside as it did when Marjory died in 1811 but internally it has been gutted and modernised, sometime around 1960 probably. Such a shame.

R.L. Stevenson’s House, Edinburgh

As we were passing this house on the way to St. Giles on Saturday, I thought I would take a photograph of it.

Thomas Stevenson built this house in 1803 at Baxter’s Place, at the bottom of Calton Hill in Edinburgh and just a stone’s throw away from Princes Street. The Stevensons were famous as a family of engineers and lighthouse builders before the author Robert Louis was born into it.

The building was used as a place of work with a separate flat for the family, so this is where R.L. was brought up and as you can see, the windows are boarded up. It has been like that for years and nothing seems to be being done to it.

I can’t help thinking that Edinburgh Council has missed a great opportunity to turn this house into a Stevenson museum, as happens in other towns.

We have museums all over the place which are attracting thousands of visitors, even when they are in out of the way places such as Haworth (Bronte) and Kirriemuir (J.M. Barrie). Even Paul McCartney’s childhood home has been turned into a museum.

Unfortunately the top parts of the Georgian building have been sold off seperately and seem to be being lived in by people now, although there is a broken window, maybe squatters have moved in. So I think they’ve missed the chance to put it all back as it originally was. If the flats ever come up for sale they will be so expensive given the price of any property in Edinburgh but especially Georgian townhouses, the council would never pay out the money required.

I can’t understand why the basement and first floor have been left vacant and unloved for years though. It’s a mystery.

Take Back Parliament Demonstration

It has taken me 50 years to take part in a demonstration and I didn’t really know what to expect. We all gathered at St. Giles Cathedral on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile as you can see in this photograph.

The turnout wasn’t bad really, probably about 300 people. I’m sure there would have been far more people if we had had more notice of the thing, but that couldn’t be helped, I’m sure. I know folks who couldn’t make it but would have liked to have taken part.

Eventually the purple flag holders moved to the front and we set off up the Royal Mile and round into The Mound and along to New College. I wouldn’t call it a march, more of an amiable amble really.

We were a motley mob, aged from babes in arms to elderly gents in kilts. Nearly everyone was wearing or holding something purple to signify justice/equality.

So it wasn’t a long amble and when we reached our destination there was some speechifying from about five different people, including one Edinburgh M.P.

The organiser seemed to be pleased with the turnout. But we can only hope that the whole thing will gather momentum, we were asked to try to get five people that we know to join in the campaign. I’m not a fan of chain letter type things but in this case it’s the only way to go forward.

So if anyone reading this post is, like me, fed up with my vote never counting and completely scunnered with the terrible system of voting that we have in Britain – please sign up to Take Back Parliament. Oak trees from little acorns grow and all that!

Fair Votes Now.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I had just been thinking that it was about time that I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea, probably as part of the Flashback Challenge. Jean Rhys wrote the book as a prequel to Jane Eyre and it’s the story of Mr. Rochester’s first wife.

As these things often happen, I noticed that a biography of Jean Rhys has just been published, it was reviewed in The Guardian Review last Saturday.

It’s called The Blue Hour: A portrait of Jean Rhys and is by Lilian Pizzichini. It sounds like it could be a really interesting read but I’m going to wait a bit and see if my local library will be buying it.

I’m not supposed to be buying books if I can at all help it, mainly because they are taking over the house. But let’s face it, sometimes you just can’t help it and you find yourself on Amazon or Abebooks yet again.

Heatherhall Woods, Fife

We had been planning on going on our first hillwalk of the season last Saturday but the bracing breeze from the north made us think again. It was freezing.

So we pointed the car towards Ladybank and ended up taking a walk around Heatherhall Woods which is a managed woodland owned by Fife Council. It’s a very tame walk and so I suppose it is good for people who want to take small children for a walk.

I can’t say that we saw much in the way of wildlife though. There are supposed to be red squirrels around there but the only thing we saw was a crow, and I heard a pigeon. It seemed bereft of wildlife even compared with our teeny wee back garden, which is usually teeming with birds.

But the trees are nice there, mainly pine trees which should suit red squirrels. I think they could maybe be doing with having some smaller trees for wee birds to perch on, although they do have silver birch.

Holly trees would be good for the birds. Ours is always stuffed full of them. You can’t see any birds as they are all hidden in it but they certainly like to make themselves heard.

I’m hoping that it will be warm enough to go up a hill soon. We’re definitely fair weather walkers.

The Last Station

For some reason we hadn’t got around to going to the flicks for more than 18 months. I think it’s probably just the thought of going out in the cold and the dark that has put us off. On the other hand, I always feel quite guilty if it’s the summertime and we emerge from the dark into bright daylight. It must be a hangover from being told to get out of the house and not waste the daylight as a youngster.

Anyway, last night we went to see The Last Station with Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren and James McAvoy, amongst others.

It is the story of Tolstoy’s last years. He had formed a new sort of religion called Tolstoyism, which frowned on sex and fun in general. I must say it reminded me very much of the Free Church of Scotland.

Tolstoy (Plummer) is being talked into signing all his book rights over to the Russian people and as you can imagine, his wife (Mirren) is furious at the thought of her children being disinherited in this way.

Enter Bulgakov as Tolstoy’s new secretary in the shape of James McAvoy who has the difficult task of pleasing everyone involved.

I really enjoyed the film. It was well acted and had beautiful settings, lovely costumes, brooches and birch trees, and the cinema was really quiet. No gossiping and sweetie paper rustling. Amazing. What more could you want.

Now I just have to get around to actually reading some Tolstoy.

Electoral Reform

I’m one of those people who don’t join clubs, a bit like Groucho Marx. On the few occasions that I’ve signed petitions, I haven’t put down my real name.

I’m blaming the fact that one of my relatives was transported to Australia, just for shouting his mouth off basically. So it’s a very big deal for me to join the Take Back Parliament campaign.

I saw the demonstration outside the London Liberal Democrat HQ on News 24 on Saturday afternoon and felt that there isn’t any point in me moaning about our rotten voting system if I’m not prepared to stick my head above the parapet.

So I’ll probably be in Edinburgh on the Royal Mile at St. Giles next Saturday, wearing purple. There are meetings going on all over the country.

After all, I’m in no danger of being sent to Botany Bay, they wouldn’t let us in.

Library Book Sale

There was another mad withdrawn library book sale at the Adam Smith Theatre today. Surely they will have to re-think the book buying policy soon. There are so many cuts going on in other council departments, especially education. Anyway, I shouldn’t really complain as I bought another 5 fiction books plus a pasta cookery book.

I’ve only read 2 of the books that I bought in last month’s sale though, so the TBR pile is growing at an alarming rate.

This month, I couldn’t say no to:

Not the End of the World – Kate Atkinson
The Shipping News – Annie Proulx
Life Class – Pat Barker
April Lady – Georgette Heyer
The Popular Girl – F. Scott Fitzgerald.

No doubt I’ll get around to reading them at some point. At the moment I’m reading Vanity Fair, it’s a very old copy from the second-hand book shop. Unfortunately I didn’t realise how long it is when I started it. It dawned on me as I was turning the pages that they are nearly bible thin and there are 883 pages of them.

I could be some time.

The Election

I’ve spent my time this week plodding around the place with Liberal Democrat leaflets – a lot of those letterboxes are lethal but amazingly I do still have all of my fingers and thumbs.

I didn’t expect the Lib Dems to win in Kirkcaldy, I doubt if it will ever be anything other than Labour and of course it is Gordon Brown’s constituency, but you’ve got to give it a try.

I’m disappointed beyond belief at the outcome of the Dunfermline and West Fife vote though. Duncan was an intern for the Lib Dem M.P. Willie Rennie there before getting his job at St Andrews. But he continued to help out at the constituency office in his spare time. What with Willie being a really great M.P. plus the surge in Lib Dem support recently, we really thought that Willie would be re-elected. They all worked their socks off too, but to no avail.

Apparently, on the day before the election it was noticeable that people who had been supporters were taking fright, mainly because of the tabloid newspapers reporting that it would be an outright win for the Conservatives.

Why they thought that they then had to ditch the Lib Dems and vote for Labour is a mystery to me. I hope they are all feeling thoroughly ashamed of themselves for voting in a complete stranger to the area, whose only interest is getting into the House of Commons.

So I’m feeling very fed up with the whole thing and the only thing that is cheering me up is that I know that some time in the near future they will regret voting him in. Hell mend them – as we say!

Too late for poor Willie Rennie though, and the workers in his constituency office who are now unemployed.

If I weren’t a bit of a lady – I’d spit.

And another thing. We had helicopters circling around our house for hours during the night, because we live near where the count was taking place. They were tracking Gordon Brown’s car as he left his house for the count. On T.V. all you could see was a black screen and a teeny wee dot of light, it was completely unnecessary, a terrible waste of fuel, and it must have woken people up. Not everyone feels the need to watch the election programmes.

The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

I read The Franchise Affair as part of the Flashback Challenge and the Thriller and Suspense Reading Challenge.

This book was first published in 1948 but I first read it in the early 1970s when I was a teenager. I borrowed it from the English department library at school. It was seen as being a vintage classic even then but I think they probably had it because Josephine Tey is a Scottish writer.

However, it is set in an English provincial town where Robert Blair is a lawyer dealing with wills and property conveyancing. When he gets a phone call from Marion Sharpe who is in need of a lawyer, he tries to pass her on to Ben Carley, the local criminal lawyer, but Marion perseveres and he ends up going to visit her.

Marion and her elderly mother have recently inherited a large, dilapidated house and the police have informed them of a complaint which has been made against them by a 15 year old girl, Betty Kane.

According to Betty Kane, the Sharpes had abducted her and kept her locked up, beating and witholding food from her until she agreed to do the housework for them. She says she was held prisoner for a month until a door was left unlocked and she was able to make her escape.

The police decide that there isn’t enough evidence to charge Marion and her mother, but the Ack Emma – a tabloid newspaper gets a hold of the story and the dregs of society decide that they are judge and jury, making life miserable for the Sharpes.

When the police decide to charge the Sharpes, Robert Blair despairs of being able to help them but he turns to sleuthing and with the help of others the full story begins to unfold.

I really enjoyed re-reading this book but I have a vague memory that I didn’t much like it the first time that I read it. Before then I had only read Agatha Christie mysteries and Tey is very different from her. In fact I think she is much better than Christie but I’ll have to read more of her books to be sure.

If you like vintage crime, this is one that you should definitely read.