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.

Men of Bannockburn, Dunfermline and Tall Tales – exhibitions

I had just finished one of those FutureLearn online courses when I noticed that there was an exhibition of art called Men of Bannockburn on at the library/museum in Dunfermline. The art consists of life size illustrations of some of the main knights involved in the battle. The works are by the artist Marco Trecalli who as well as being an artist is also an expert on 13th and 14th century military equipment and uniforms.

Men of Bannockburn

Click on the photos if you want to read the details, that should enlarge them for you.

Men of Bannockburn

Men of Bannockburn , Dunfermline. Marco Trecalli

In another room there was an exhibition called Tall Tales, aimed at encouraging children to read. There were quite a few kids in there so I couldn’t take photos of any of the exhibits, but I liked the bookish sentiments on the walls. I doubt if any were read by kids though, mainly because they were at adult height! But they were too busy playing in the Beanstalk house made of books anyway.

Tall Tales, Dunfermline, Fife

Books quote, Tall Tales, Dunfermline

book house

I’m so late getting around to writing this post that I suspect both exhibitions are finished now, but they’ll probably move on elsewhere eventually.

The crimson in the purple by Holly Roth

The crimson in the purple cover

The crimson in the purple by Holly Roth was first published in 1957 and it’s the third book that I’ve read by the author, I really like her writing. She also wrote under the names K.G. Ballard and P.J. Merrill.

Bill Farland is working as a private investigator until his career as a playwright takes off, so when the youngest member of an American acting dynasty comes to him for help he’s very happy to take on the job, not just because he’s desperate for money, he hopes that it’ll be a chance for him to push forward his new play. It looks like someone has been trying to poison Catherine Hadden who seems to be being treated as a dogsbody by the rest of her illustrious family of actors and set designers. Catherine is their housekeeper in the large Victorian pile that Dominic the head of the dynasty refuses to sell. Strangely Catherine has been told that there’s no money for her to go to college.

Bill Farland is invited to a dinner party at the Hadden family home as a friend of Catherine’s and to begin with he’s rather star-struck but in no time he’s gone right off Terratta Hadden whom he had idolised previously as in real life she’s a bitch. In fact the Haddens are a fairly ghastly bunch who behave badly even in front of guests. Things quickly go from bad to worse, but I don’t want to say any more about that.

For me this was a tense psychological thriller and I didn’t guess the ending which is always a big plus. The book would have made a really good film I think but maybe it was thought that the private detective scenario had been used enough in films by the late 1950s.

The 1930 Club

club

I’m taking part in The 1930 Club which is hosted by Simon of Stuck in a Book and Karen of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and so I’m reading Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestley which is 613 pages long so I doubt if I’ll be reading any others. I’ve been busy with visitors until now so I’ll be glad to immerse myself in reading this week.

As it happens I’ve read a lot of books that were published in 1930 in the past and the links will take you to the ones I’ve previously blogged about.

Alice and Thomas and Jane by Enid Bagnold

Not So Quiet by Helen Zenna Smith

The Weatherhouse by Nan Shepherd

After Leaving Mr Mackenzie by Jean Rhys

Miss Mole by E.H. Young

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop by Gladys Mitchell

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Morning Tide by Neil M. Gunn

The Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield

New Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway, South-west Scotland

The garden below might not seem spectacular but I’ve always hankered after a garden edged by a wee burn, and it would have to have the garden sloping down to the burn too, so there was no chance of the house being flooded. The one in the photo below would do me fine. New Abbey is a very Scottish looking wee village, just five miles south of Dumfries.

New Abbey garden, Dumfries and Galloway

If you want to visit Sweetheart Abbey it’s the village of New Abbey that you head for. Sweetheart Abbey is the nickname given to the new abbey by the monks there, as Lady Devorgilla who founded the Cistercian abbey carried her husband’s embalmed heart around with her for years until her own death in 1289. Jack posted pictures of the Abbey here.

New Abbey houses, Dumfries and Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway must have more abbeys and priories than anywhere else in Scotland. It’s close to Ireland and Christianity was brought to Scotland by the Irish. The sea crossing is usually rough and must have been terrifying back then. Of course the religious buildings are all ruins now, but still interesting to see.

I liked the porthole windows in the gable end below.

New Abbey , Dumfries and Galloway

The Corn Mill is run by Historic Environment Scotland – as is Sweetheart Abbey.
New Abbey Corn Mill, Dumfries and Galloway

The massive mill wheel below was turned by that wee burn in the first photo in its heyday and I suppose that the owner of the mill would have been one of the wealthiest people in the area. Sadly it isn’t a working mill now.

Mill Wheel, New Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway

The School on the Loch by Angela Brazil

The School on the Loch cover

The School on the Loch by Angela Brazil was published in 1946 and it is the last book that she wrote.

The tale begins in Kenya where young sisters Ailsa and Jessie Lindsay live on their parents’ coffee farm. It’s Ailsa’s birthday and she has just been sent a book by her Uncle Tom in Scotland. The book Bonnie Scotland makes the girls wish they could go there, especially as their father has always been rather homesick for Scotland. He dreams of owning a farm back in his homeland which he was forced to leave as a youngster.

A plague of locusts devastates the coffee crop and very much changes the fortunes of the family so when a Scottish relative offers to take the girls ‘back home’ and educate them the girls are thrilled.

As you can imagine the Scottish weather is a wee bit of a shock for the girls but it isn’t long before they’re settled into life in Scotland and their new school and there’s the usual school situations involving teachers and girls.

Evidently Angela Brazil did do some local research as they visit Loch Lomond and she mentions getting the train to Dumbarton, which is of course where I grew up. I always get a bit of a thrill when it gets a mention in a book.

Angela Brazil must have been getting on when she wrote this one, it’s not her best but as ever I did learn something. I had never heard of the word prog so when I came across it in this book I looked it up in my trusty but falling apart over forty year old dictionary by my side and discovered that amongst many things it means – provisions, especially for a journey. In the book the prog was ready for their trip to Loch Lomond, another place that Angela Brazil must have visited.

Cardoness Castle and Carsluith Castle – Dumfries and Galloway

Cardoness Castle, Dumfries and Galloway, south west Scotland

Cardoness Castle Interior 1

It’s over a year since I visited Cardoness Castle, close to Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway, south-west Scotland. It was originally built by the McCulloch family around 1470 and they seem to have been a difficult bunch, not the sort of people that you would want as neighbours.

As ever – you get a great view if you’re willing to tramp up the spiral staircase. The view below is looking over the Fleet Estuary.

Fleet estuary, Dumfries and Galloway
And below is the view back up to Gatehouse of Fleet which is a small town which had a great secondhand bookshop in it and also a good but much smaller antique/bookshop.

View towards Gatehouse of Fleet

Twp castles for the price of one today!

Carsluith Castle, Dumfries and Galloway

Carsluith Castle , Dumfries and Galloway

Carsluith Castle is situated three miles south of Creetown and dates from the 1400s. Carsluith looks fairly solid and it’s easy to imagine how it must have been in its heyday. Over the years various outbuildings have been added very close by and one of them has been turned into a cafe, also it’s right next to the A75 which is a very busy road and detracts from the atmosphere of the place, but Carsluith has some lovely details in the stonework so it’s worth having a look at it if you’re in the south-west of Scotland.

Carsluith Castle, view from top, Dumfries and Galloway

From the other side you get a view of Wigtown Bay, but I didn’t manage to get a very good photo of it.
Carsluith Castle,view from  top, Dumfries and Galloway

Holiday book purchases

Autumn Books

I managed to add eight more books to the many waiting in my TBR queue while we were away in Wales and East Sussex a few weeks ago. I bought All the Books of my Life by Sheila Kaye-Smith in a secondhand bookshop in Rye which is owned by a lovely Irish woman – who of course had no problem understanding our accent. I dread to think what trouble she must have had over the forty years or so that she has lived in Rye. I must admit that I had never heard of Sheila Kaye-Smith but she seems to have been local to East Sussex and ‘world famous’ in her neighbourhood.

I already have a few Monica Dickens books to read, I read some in the 1970s but none since then. The Room Upstairs seems to be quite different though – with the setting being America. I’m not going to pass up on a chance to buy a Heyer or even a Persephone which Doreen by Barbara Noble is, and I recall the Raffles series when it was on TV back in the year dot so I thought I’d give The Amateur Cracksman a go. The other three that I bought are Penguin Crimes which seem to be getting more and more thin on the ground.

All the Books of My Life by Sheila Kaye-Smith
The Room Upstairs by Monica Dickens
False Colours by Georgette Heyer
Doreen by Barbara Noble
Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman by E.W. Hornung

and three Penguin Crime books
Poison in Jest by John Dickson Carr
Comes the Blind Fury by Douglas Rutherford
The crimson in the purple by Holly Roth

Have you read any of these ones?

Bookworm A Memoir of CHILDHOOD READING by Lucy Mangan

 Bookworm cover

Bookworm A Memoir of CHILDHOOD READING by Lucy Mangan seemed to be being read by so many of the blogs that I visit last year, but it has taken me a while to get around to it. I really like Lucy Mangan in the articles she writes for the Guardian and I knew that she had a huge collection of books, even the actual books she had as a child. I’m envious of that as my mother gave all of mine away – to a younger child who didn’t even read! – it still enrages me. When I started to read Susan Hill’s Howards End is on the Landing this book is what I hoped and expected it to be but I was sorely disappointed with that one. I suspect that Lucy Mangan was too and decided to do a better job of writing about her childhood books – and she certainly did. I loved it.

Lucy was incredibly lucky to have been brought up in a family where books were loved and to have a father who supplied her with books that he thought she would love. Her mother did worry that Lucy never seemed to play outside, she was stuck on the sofa reading as often as she could and hated having to go to childhood parties. Socialising was not her thing, she preferred the lives inside the books she was reading and she devoured them. Her reading experiences don’t quite match mine though as she ranges from The Very Hungry Caterpillar – a book that I read to my own children but didn’t know as a child – and almost ends with her experiences of Sweet Valley High, definitely after my time.

But in between Lucy talks enthusiastically of her love of so many different books and her love of her local library, she bonded with her father through books and at the time was totally unaware that her sister was busy bonding with their father through visits to all sorts of places that Lucy hadn’t been to – as she was too busy living inside books. What a great father he was/is.

Illustrated books, Ladybirds, Puffins, boarding school books, pony books, Alice, Blyton, Narnia, Nesbit, Streatfeild, Tom Sawyer, Holiday House, Anne of Green Gables, Dahl, Winnie the Pooh, the Brontes …. just about every children’s book you could think of gets a mention – except Peter Pan which seems bizarre to me as I love that one.

On reaching ‘double figures’ Lucy noticed that things had changed in the playground. There was no more playing with the boys. ‘The girls had hived themselves off and stopped running around and getting sweaty. They played with each other’s hair and compared frilly ankle socks and fancy pencil cases instead. If a boy spoke to you now, you had to giggle instead of answer. The boys were baffled. I was baffled. I tried giggling once, but it was not to be.’ Lucy wasn’t a twirly girl.

How well I remember those days and honestly I was glad when I left school that I didn’t have to be in the same room as those inane gigglers and constant hair flickers. I never did grow into make-up, hair flicking and nail varnish.

In passing Lucy mentions that boarding schools lost popularity when free secondary education came in after World War 2. I’d hate anyone to think that that was the same for the whole of the UK as education had been free in Scotland long long before then. The state of English education was quite shocking.

Reading this book is like having a chat with Lucy, especially if you read her Guardian articles and know about her family already. I borrowed this one from the library but I think it’s a book that I would enjoy dipping into every now and then so I’ll probably buy a copy of it.

As I moved onto books for adults far too early I’ve been busy catching up with children’s books I missed out on as a youngster but I’ve had to take notes of so many more that I hadn’t even heard of and were/are adored by Lucy Mangan.

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson

Maurice cover

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson was translated from the Icelandic by Quentin Bates and published in the UK in 2015, it’s the first in a series.

Ari Thor is one of those people who quickly loses interest in things and rarely finishes anything. After giving up on studying theology in Reykjavik he switched to training to be a policeman. When a job comes up in Siglufjordur – a very remote fishing village in the north of Iceland Ari Thor applies for it. He hasn’t even talked it over with his partner Kristin who is a doctor in a Reykjavik hospital, they had been talking about marriage so his departure for the far frozen north is a shock to her.

As you would expect of such a remote area the townspeople are insular, it’s the sort of place where you’re always going to be thought of as an outsider and although Ari Thor’s boss seems to be friendly enough he isn’t happy when his new ‘boy’ proves to have a mind of his own and puts forward theories of his own. When the local celebrity who wrote a best selling novel decades ago is found dead at the bottom of stairs it’s assumed that it was an accident, but Ari Thor isn’t so sure.

I really enjoyed this one which has a good mixture of crime and personal life. Ari Thor finds it difficult to settle down in Siglufjordur where the winter is much colder than in Reykjavik and the snow triggers feelings of claustrophobia in Ari Thor – even before the avalanches cut the small village off from the rest of Iceland.

Snowblind reminded me very much of the Icelandic TV series Trapped, but that was written by Baltasar Kormakur – but I suppose anywhere in an Icelandic winter is going to have the same sort of atmosphere. I enjoyed Snowblind enough to make me want to continue with the rest of the books in this Dark Iceland series.

I read this one for 2019 European Reading Challenge which is hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader.

Broughton House, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

Broughton House

Way back in May 2018 we visited Broughton House and Garden in Kirkcudbright (pronounced Kirkcoodbry, which is in Dumfries and Galloway. It was owned by the Scottish artist E.A. Hornel. You can read about him here and see some of his artworks, and read more about him here.

Broughton House, Dumfries and Galloway

Broughton House, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

It was a busy place when we were there so I wasn’t able to get much in the way of photos of the garden, but this lilac tree was at its best while we were there.
lilac flowers, Broughton House Garden, Dumfries and Galloway

plants, Broughton House, Dumfries and Galloway
The house is now owned by the Scottish National Trust and there are quite a few of his artworks on view there and if you’re interested you can see more images of his work here.
Broughton House, lawn stitch

Kirkcaldy Art Gallery always has a few of his paintings on display. The one below is a favourite with many but I find it a bit twee for my taste.

Hornel