About Katrina

I live on the east coast of Scotland, not from choice. After 30 years here it still doesn't feel like home. Hence the name of my blog. West is still best as far as I am concerned. I'm married with two grown up 'boys'. I'm interested in books, films, art, crafts, cooking, politics, museums and travelling around Britain.

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

St Andrews, Fife, Shore and Castle

St Andrews in Fife is one of my favourite places to visit, but because of the lockdown we hadn’t been there for months, actually possibly we hadn’t been there at all this year. So on Saturday we took the opportunity to pay the town a visit. It was a bit daft doing it on a Saturday as it was bound to be busy but we were visiting family further along the coast so we killed two birds with one stone.

It looks a bit grey and cool but it was really quite a hot day, by Scottish standards. The queue for the ice cream shop was too long for us to stand in. The beach was packed, but we just sat on a bench (wearing our masks) and didn’t bother going on to the sands, we just people and dog watched, the dogs were more entertaining, chasing the waves.

St Andrews, sea, Fife

It was strange to see the gates around the cathedral closeed and padlocked, I had to tale photos through the railings.

St Andrews Cathedra, Fife, Scotland

St Andrews Cathedral, Fife, Scotland

St Andrews Cathedral, Fife, Scotland

The archway below is over the road that leads down to the beach, down a steep road. If you want to read a bit more about the town then have a look here, there are some great photos.
St Andrews Archway, Fife, Scotland

Classics Club Spin – # 24

spin

It’s Classics Club Spin time again – number 24. The spin number will be chosen on Sunday the 9th of August and I’ll be writing about whichever book I have to read by the 30th September 2020.

My spin list is:

1. Montaigne essays
2. High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
3. Coot Club by Arthur Ransome
4. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
5. Doctor Dolittle and the Green Parrot by Hugh Lofting
6. Summer Half by Angela Thirkell
7. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
8. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
9. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
10. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
11. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
12. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
13. The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade
14. The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
15. Sing for Your Supper by Pamela Frankau
16. End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
17. The Trial by Franz Kafka
18. Salem Chapel by Margaret Oliphant
19. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
20. The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison

I’ve read quite a few chunky books recently so I’d really prefer to avoid reading some of the heftier books on my list, such as Salem Chapel and The Corn King and the Spring Queen, actually there are quite a few hefty books on this list, the odds might be against me!

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times is a meme which was started by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and it has turned out to be a really useful tour around my own books, often books that I’ve forgotten that I had even bought and haven’t got around to reading. However this week my shelf is almost full of books that I’ve already read, in fact some of my favourite books reside on this shelf and I really like all the authors. Click the photo to enlarge it.

Bookshelf

I loved Olivia Manning’s Balkan trilogy Fortunes of War and went on to read her Levant trilogy too. You can read what I thought about Fortunes of War here. I see that I read it back in 2010 in my very early blogging days – how time flies.

Men Do Not Weep by Beverly Nichols is one of only two books on this shelf that I haven’t read, apparently it’s a political book which was published in 1941 so it should be interesting. He’s better known for the books that he wrote based on his life, buying houses and making them into homes for himself with especial interest in planning the garden. There’s quite a lot of snooty wit involved in his writing. The series which begins with Down the Garden Path is a good place to start if you’re interested in reading his books. It was first published in 1932 so it’s a real blast from the past, for me these are real comfort reads. You can see my thoughts on some of his books here.

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute is the other book that I haven’t got around to reading yet. I think it’s the fact that it’s a very old paperback that has put me off from reading it. Having just read the blurb again it sounds like it’s right up my street. The setting is France in 1940.

John Howard, a retired country solicitor, holidaying in the Jura mountains, is persuaded to escort two English children home to safety.

Helped by the stubbornness and the patience of old age, hindered by the addition of another five waifs and strays, he makes his way across a crumbling and defeated France.

Have any of you read this one, if so tell me what you thought of it?

Snow by Orhan Pamuk – 20 Books of Summer

Snow by Orhan Pamuk was first published in the UK in 2004, was originally published in Turkey in 2002 and was translated by Maureen Freely. This is the thirteenth book that I’ve read from my 20 Books of Summer list and I put it on the list because it’s one of the many books in translation that Jack has bought over the years and I thought it was about time I gave some of them a go.

I must admit that I had a hard trudge through the first half of this book. The setting is Kars which is a remote city in Turkey, it’s where the poet Ka grew up, he has been living in Frankfurt for the last few years and he has returned supposedly to gather information to help him write an article for a German newspaper. The trouble for me was that the modern day Turkey kept getting in the way as everything at the moment in Turkey is the opposite of what it was in this book. Now the country is ruled by a supposedly fundamentalist Islamic leader. In Kars young women are beginning to cover their head with scarves and are even being banned from school and colleges if they refuse to remove their headscarves. There has been a spate of young women committing suicide, possibly because of the pressure to go bare headed but it might be because of the pressure their parents put on them to marry. Ka wants to investigate but he becomes embroiled with the political situation, the Islamists, army and the never changing plight of the Kurds feature. As the city becomes cut off due to the heavy snowfall there’s a clash between the political Islamists and the army. Ka had already witnessed a murder – it’s not a healthy place for him to be.

He has also fallen in love/lust with Ipec a beautiful woman that he has known since they were at school together so there’s romance of a sort here too. Strangely the author himself appears in this book towards the end, I’m told this is normal for a Pamuk book. Half-way through the book I thought I would probably give it three stars but by the end I upgraded it to four.

Edited to add:

One character more or less predicts the future in Turkey exactly as it is now when he says –

“If they don’t let the army and the state deal with these dangerous fanatics, we’ll end up back in the middle ages, sliding into anarchy, travelling the doomed path already well travelled by so many tribal nations in Asia and the Middle East.”

Cockburnspath and Cove, Borders, Scotland

Last Friday was a beautiful blue sky day which was great as we had arranged to go and visit some friends for the afternoon. The journey to Cockburnspath – or Co’path as it is known to the locals takes us over the new Queensferry Crossing (bridge) south of Edinburgh and it’s about a 160 mile all round journey for us, it was our first big day out since the lockdown in February. If you’re interested in history have a look here, it’s a very historic area.

We’ve been going on daily walks during the lockdown but it was just so nice to walk somewhere different. The first stretch of our legs took us past St Helen’s Church, That’s my sister’s name and I hadn’t even realised there was a Saint Helen. The church dates from the 1500s.

Cockburnspath Church, Borders, Scotland

If you’ve been visiting ‘Pining’ for a while then you’ve probably seen photos like these before. We always walk to the nearby village of Cove on the coast with Uther the red and white setter. Apparently there aren’t many of that breed left. Uther is a bit daft and unusually for a dog he never goes into the water. He drank some sea-water as a pup and it seems to have put him off having too close an encounter ever again. It’s a pity some humans don’t have that sort of aversion when they have their first hangover!

Cove Beach + Uther, near Cockburnspath, Borders, Scotland

The two old cottages are still standing, no doubt one day they’ll be washed away by a big storm as happened to the many other cottages that were here. Now these ones are just used for storing creels and various other bits and pieces of fishing gear. I wouldn’t mind living in one of them – for fine days only.

Cove Beach, Borders, Scotland

It was nice to see friends and have a wee bit of normality back in our lives, but I still don’t want to go anywhere crowded where you can’t socially distance easily.

Red sky at night – in Fife, Scotland

Fife evening sky

We’ve had some terrible weather this July, torrential rain lasting for ages, but we have also had some wonderful sunsets and cloud formations during our long summer gloamings.

Fife sky, evening sky, Scotland

I knew that we would have to pay for all that glorious weather we had in May – in the shape of poor June and July weather. I hope things become more settled in August, it probably will be better just as the schools begin to go back (however they’ve decided to do it) because that’s normally what happens, not that there’s anything normal about 2020.

Fife sky,sunset, Scotland

An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott 20 Books of Summer

An Old-Fashioned Girl cover

An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott was first published in 1870, but six chapters had been published in a magazine the previous year.

It’s the story of Polly who is the teenage daughter of a rural church minister and his wise and sensible wife, money in that family isn’t plentiful, so when Polly travels to Boston to visit her friend Fanny she finds herself in a situation she hasn’t been in before. Fanny’s family is a wealthy one, living in a grand house with servants. Material things are obviously very important to them, but when compared with Polly’s family and upbringing Polly can see that the money and easy life hasn’t made Fanny’s family happy. In particular Fanny’s mother is immature and lacking in any common-sense, her children are argumentative and spoiled spendthrifts. Fanny’s father sees Polly’s kindness and warmth as being a good influence on his family, but really he’s just a provider of money as far as they’re concerned. Fanny’s mother reminded me in some ways of Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, she shrieks and takes to her bed when she gets bad news and evidently only married her husband for his money.

This book covers several years, taking Polly and Fanny into their early 20s. Polly is determined to be independent, she’s working as a music teacher to help her brother get through college financially. Teaching small children turns out to be much more difficult than she thought it would be. There’s romance of course and it’s quite obvious how things will end up for Polly. She’s determined to marry someone that she loves rather than ‘an establishment’. I thought of Lizzie Bennet and Pemberley!

This was an enjoyable read, I know that if I had read this book when I was a youngster I would really have identified with Polly, and not being a wild consumerist or interested in designer labels, make-up and nail bars I still do identify with her really. I found this book to be a bit too preachy and just a wee bit too sentimental, but that was the fashion of the time. I don’t think there’s a sequel to it, which is a shame, I would have liked to read more about Polly as she aged.

Thanks for sending me this one Jennifer.

I read this one for 20 Books of Summer.

The Citadel by A.J. Cronin

The Citadel cover

The Citadel by the Scottish author A.J. Cronin was first published in 1939. It was the fifth book that he had had published and prior to taking up writing he had been a doctor for ten years. The Citadel must have been cooking away in his head for several years before he wrote it. This book is much more important than most fiction as it has been regarded as having been instrumental in the setting up of the National Health Service.

At the beginning the setting is 1924 in a coalmining village called Drineffy in Wales where Dr Andrew Manson has taken his first position after graduating. He’s going to be the assistant to a doctor who has worked there for years and is popular, but Andrew quickly discovers that he will have to do all of the work as Dr Page is bed-ridden, having had a stroke. This doesn’t stop Page’s spinster sister from grabbing the vast majority of the money from the ‘business’ leaving Andrew with less than a pound a week for pocket money. It’s a miserable dirty and poverty stricken place but Andrew works hard and is popular and he’s interested in doing research into lung diseases so he has plenty of interesting case, and to cap his happiness he marries Christine, a young schoolteacher. But not everyone is happy with the young doctor, he has made some enemies and that culminates with Andrew leaving the village to work in a larger Welsh town.

Andrew and Christine eventually end up moving to London where he buys a deceased doctor’s practice, but most of his patients are poor so life is still a struggle. When Andrew meets up with one of his friends from university he can’t help being jealous of his riches. He wasn’t as clever or hard working as Andrew but had concentrated on looking prosperous and soon was, with wealthy patients, most of whom were not at all ill but were lonely or hypochondriacs. The successful medics were selling medicine which was mainly made up of coloured water with a bit of ether added. In fact they weren’t any better than snake oil salesmen. Andrew is seduced by the high lifestyle and as he gets richer his marriage deteriorates until he and Christine are barely speaking to each other. She longs for the countryside and a garden but spends her days standing in a cupboard making up the fake medicines.

A tragedy wakes Andrew up to what he has been doing, and he realises that so many of his Harley Street colleagues are charlatans doing much more harm than good and doing very well out of it financially.

This is a sad book at times, but is a great read and when it was published it was Gollancz’s highest selling book. As you can imagine Cronin made plenty of enemies, and a group of medical specialists tried to have the book banned which probably just about guaranteed its success.

The Citadel was made into a film in 1938 and there was a BBC adaptation in 1983.

Call for the Dead by John le Carre

 Call for the Dead  cover

Call for the Dead by John le Carre was first published in 1961 and it’s the first book in his George Smiley series. I’ve really enjoyed his Smiley books in the past but I really wish I had started to read them in the correct order. I had always been puzzled by Smiley’s strange marriage to the wildly unfaithful Lady Ann, so I was glad to discover from this book some of the history behind the couple.

As soon as I started reading this book I realised that it had been made into a film and I had seen it fairly recently, it didn’t go into the details of the marriage though so I did learn more from the book.

George Smiley had been given the job of questioning one of the British Intelligence staff members who has come under some suspicion, he’s supected of spying for the East Germans. Smiley takes him to a park to have an informal chat with him but despite the low stress venue and laid-back style, the suspect soon ends up dead, supposedly at this own hands, but Smiley isn’t convinced, it just doesn’t add up to him. His bosses in the ‘Circus’/ British Intelligence seem keen to blame Smiley for the death, but soon Smiley himself is attacked.

This is a suspenseful read, but if you’re a James Mason fan you might want to seek out the film which is called The Deadly Affair.

Armchair Travelling – Lindisfarne / Holy Island, near Berwick on Tweed – part 2

If you are visiting Lindisfarne Castle you should be warned that you have to be fairly fit to get up to it, there’s a very steep hill and the pathway has been made with rounded cobblestones which aren’t that easy to walk on, even if you’re wearing trainers or completely flat shoes. The priory is much easier to get around though, and that bit interested me most – I do love a good ruin.

Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, National Trust

These ruins date from the 12th century and they are looked after by English Heritage.
Strangely the graveyard seems still to be in use with some fairly modern headstones, presumably the villagers can be buried there.

Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, National Trust

Irish monks settled on Lindisfarne in AD 635 which is the time of the Northumbrian king Oswald. He asked a monk from the Scottish island of Iona to settle at Lindisfarne and founded the monastery. In the 670s Cuthbert went there as a monk and he eventually became the most important saint in northern England.

Lindisfarne Priory,Holy Island, National Trust

Lindisfarne became an important centre of Christian learning, but where there was Christianity there was silver and gold – those pilgrims have always meant good business for churches, so the Vikings were drawn to such places for the easy pickings. On the 8th of June 793 the Vikings made a raid on the island, the first of such in western Europe but certainly not the last.

Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, English Heritage

It was murder and mayhem and Saint Cuthbert hadn’t helped them so it was psycholgiclly devastating to the believers and most of the survivors ended up leaving Lindisfarne, taking Cuthbert’s body with them and settling inland. The modern sculpture below is of Saint Cuthbert, it’s not really to my taste.

Lindisfarne Priory,St Cuthbert

You might have heard of the Lindisfarne Gospels – an illuminated book of the four gospels which was created on Lindisfarne around the year AD 700. If you click the link and then click on the image you can see 21 photos of some of the pages.

Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, English Heritage

I really enjoyed seeing the ruins, it’s quite easy to imagine how it must have been in its glory – and the visitations of the Vikings too!