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.

Dunnottar Castle – part 2

Back to Dunnottar Castle and after what seemed like a fairly long walk there which wasn’t really long, just a bit uneven underfoot we reached the castle itself.
It looks impregnable but William Wallace captured this castle in 1297. Click here to read more about its history.

Dunnottar Castle  entrance

I was fairly puffed out by this stage!

Dunnottar Castle from path

As you can see it was a lovely sparkling blue sky day.

Dunnottar Castle , Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Mots of the windows have window seats, it must have been lovely to sit there with embroidered cushions on them, admiring the view, reading or doing yet more embroidery.

Dunnottar Castle Window

Dunnottar Castle  windowseat

There’s only one room in the castle which has been restored so you can see what it would have looked like.

Dunnottar Castle  restored ceiling 1

Getting out of the wind gives you a very good idea of how cosy the castle could have been in its day, epscially with the addition of tapestries on the walls and maybe curtains and carpets, or at least rushes on the floors.

Dunnottar Castle chair + Fireplace

But most of the castle is in ruins, it’s almost more interesting to be able to see how it was built though, seeing the skeleton of the castle rather than its skin I suppose.

Dunnottar Castle interior

Tomorrow I’ll show you the scenery surrounding the castle.

Dunnottar Castle

The Mousewife by Rumer Godden

The Mousewife cover

The Mousewife by Rumer Godden was one of the books I got for Christmas, it was first published in 1951 but my copy was published in 1958. It’s such a cute wee book with just 39 pages and lots of illustrations which are by William Pene du Bois. This is ostensibly a book for children but in reality it will probably be appreciated more by adults, or maybe I should say by women.

A mouse couple live in an old house belonging to a spinster. They’re house mice and never venture beyond the walls, they think that the house is the whole world, but when the mousewife catches sight of the garden and woodland through a window she’s entranced by what she can see. The seasons come and go and she sees all the flowers and then the snow, but all her husband thinks about is cheese.

She’s a good mousewife, taking care of her husband when he over-indulges on currants and wrapping him up with tufts of carpet wool behind the fender. By this time she has a family to look after too and she’s the breadwinner so to speak and she has no time for thinking. But a boy brings the spinster homeowner a dove in a cage and the dove is pining for the great outdoors, it has lost the will to live, the peas which the dove is given for food are just what the mousewife needs to feed her growing brood and she makes friends with the dove.

This is a lovely tale with the dove and the mouse helping each other. The dove tells the mousewife about the hills, corn, stars and clouds.

It has been given to few mice to see the stars: so rare is it that the mousewife had not even heard of them, and when she saw them shining she thought at first they must be new brass buttons. Then she saw they were very far off, farther than the garden or the wood, beyond the farthest trees. “But not too far for me to see,” she said. She knew now that they were not buttons but something far and big and strange. “But not so strange to me,” she said, “for I have seen them, and I have seen them for myself,” said the mousewife.

Ladies or mousewives – please beware of neglecting your husband, as if you don’t give them your full attention, they might just bite your ear! You can see some of the illustrations here.

1917 – the film

It’s just typical that there are no films out that I want to go and see at the flicks for a year or so – then two come along at the same time! The same thing happened last year with Mary Queen of Scots and The Favourite.

This year it’s 1917 and Little Women, so I’ve seen two films in two days, 1917 was the first, it’s a subject that I’m well acquainted with although I’m more interested in the social aspects of it and how it all affected society, not so much on all the strategy involved.

The film is directed in a way that makes you feel almost as if you are actually there, jogging along the length of a busy trench, it’s all very realistic. The mud, blood and decaying bodies. The rats, rats and yet more rats. The crazy expectations of those giving out the orders, the ordinary Tommy’s determination to obey and save the day. Well, they had no option I suppose as one way or another they were going to get shot at.

The differences between the British and German trenches are stark, with the German ones being made from concrete and bags of solid cement. I was quite disappointed that no makers mark could be seen on them as it should have been Blue Circle cement who dodged an embargo, according to WWI British soldiers of the time. Yes, the German trenches were solidly built, not the mud and wooden slat constructions of the British trenches.

Two lance corporals have to take orders to Colonel MacKenzie which tell him to stop an impending attack, as it’s a trap, but they have to travel through German territory to reach the Colonel. It’s not an easy journey!

The film has a great cast, although Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth have very little screen time, but the rest of the acting talent is just as good. This isn’t exactly uplifting viewing but I’d watch it again, given the chance.

The director Sam Mendes based the film on stories he heard from his grandfather and decicated the film to his memory.

Aberdeen book purchases

Jack had done his homework and looked up the addresses of the secondhand bookshops in Aberdeen before we got there. There’s a great online directory that you can see here.

So when we were in Aberdeen the first port of call was Old Aberdeen Bookshop, which took us to a part of the city we hadn’t been to before. It was my kind of place, not very big but crammed with books, double parked on the shelves and piled all over the floor. I dug into the piles and Jack even found a couple of books there he knew I would like, so it’s not all my fault! But I thought I had only bought five books there – it turns out it was much worse than that. It’s a real mixed bag and showcases my catholic taste I suppose.

Books Again

The Enchanted Land (1906) by Scottish author Louey Chisholm and illustrated by another Scot Katharine Cameron. The illustrations are really enchanting and you can see some of her work here.

The other book for children (of all ages) that I bought is Cockle Button, Cockle Ben (1943) by Richard Phibbs and illustrated by Gladys M. Rees which has very different illustrations but is very much of its time and is almost equally charming.

Jack found Money by Emile Zola for me, another one to add to my Classics Club list.

He also found Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada, a great find as his books rarely pop up in secondhand bookshops – at a reasonable price anyway.

The last three are all by the Scottish author Jane Duncan who also writes as Janet Sandison.
My Friend Flora
My Friend Muriel and
My Friends the Miss Boyds

I read some of her books back in the 1970s when they were very popular but I can’t remember anything about them. The blurb is hopeful though, one front cover says: A riotous romp – moving, funny, fresh and alive. They might be the perfect light reading for when the news is too depressing.

Have you read any of these books?

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

On Friday morning we left home to travel up to Aberdeen so that Jack could go to a football match there the next day, but we stopped off at Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven on the way. We had never been there before, but since we visited it seems to be popping up everywhere as it featured on a TV programme yesterday and when I visited the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh today I saw a beautiful atmospheric painting of it by Waller Hugh Paton, see below.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

This castle is not for the faint-hearted or those who aren’t too good on their feet as there are lots of steps leading down towards the castle and then yet more steps leading up to it, the ground is uneven, but it all adds to the atmosphere. The location is fantastic as the castle is built on the edge of cliffs, 160 feet high above the North Sea with wonderful views out of the windows of what is now a ruin. It must have been an amazing place to live in in its heyday though and the lady of the castle had a wooden balcony at her bedroom window although I’m not sure that I would have fancied sitting on a balcony hanging over the sea.

Dunnottar Castle from path

Given the location and rockiness it’s not surprising that Dunnottar has long been a fortification with the Picts having a wooden fort there before a stone castle was built in the early 1300s. King Aethelstane of Wessex made a raid on the place in 934 but in the year 900 it was the Vikings who were having a go at King Donald II here. Mary, Queen of Scots visited – where didn’t she visit I ask myself, but at least she wasn’t imprisoned here. I took lots more photos, but I’ll keep those for another day.

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham

The White Cottage Mystery cover

The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham was first serialised in the Daily Express in 1927 and was published as a book the following year. I read a Bloomsbury Reader paperback which I borrowed from the library.

I’ve previously only read Allingham’s Campion books which I do generally enjoy, especially the later ones, but I liked this one even more and it’s a shame that she didn’t write more books featuring Inspector Challenor of Scotland Yard, with his son Jerry as his side-kick. This one begins just as I like with the murder being committed very early on.

Jerry is driving along a Kentish road, enjoying the change from London when he turns into a good Samaritan, offering a lift to a young woman who is struggling with a large basket having just got off a bus with it. He drops her off at the White Cottage which is situated close to an ugly vast pile of a private house. As Jerry is in conversation with the local policeman they hear a loud gunshot and so begins the mystery.

The victim is Eric Crowther, owner of the ugly house, but it seems that despite there being lots of people around within the two houses, nobody can give any information as to how Crowther ended up shot in the White Cottage and certainly nobody is sorry to see the back of him. There’s an embarrassment of riches suspect-wise and as Jerry has fallen for the young lady that he helped, he’s worried that she is involved in the murder.

This book certainly doesn’t read like the first effort at a murder mystery that it is, and I really liked the relationship between Inspector Challenor and his son Jerry.

Bloomsbury has chosen to go down the same route as the British Crime Classics Library and based the book cover on the vintage railway poster below, although it seems to have been slightly changed by Emma Ewbank.

Wales

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

 Transcription cover

Transcription by Kate Atkinson was published in 2018, but it begins briefly in 1981 before the action moves to wartime London. Juliet is just 17 and orphaned with the death of her mother. She’s going to have to fend for herself and manages to get a job with the intelligence service MI5. It turns out not to be as exciting as that sounds as she ends up sitting at a typewriter in a room next door to one which is being used as a meeting place for Nazi sympathisers. The walls are bugged and it’s her job to type out what she hears – not as easy as you might think. No-one is to be trusted and Juliet finds herself wondering about her own colleagues. Is her boss who is supposedly posing as a Gestapo officer actually a Gestapo officer? She now has a different name and it isn’t long before she’s embroiled with the Fascists she has been listening in to and given the task of searching for The Red Book which apparently has names and addresses of Nazi sympathisers.

Fast forward to 1950 and Juliet is working for the BBC making the Schools radio programmes, but her life with MI5 comes back to haunt her, or is she just being paranoid?

I really enjoyed this one and I’ll probably give it 5 stars on Goodreads as I can’t give it 4.5. Kate Atkinson has been living in Edinburgh for donkey’s years so I count her as a Scottish author.

You can read Jack’s much more detailed thoughts on this book here.

The Paper Cell by Louise Hutcheson

 The Paper Cell cover

The Paper Cell by Louise Hutcheson was published in 2017 by Saraband/Contraband and I was drawn to it in Waterstone’s in Chester because it’s such an attractive wee hardback, it even has attractive end-papers. I hadn’t ever heard of the author but I bought it as it was in a sale, I’m so glad that I did as it turned out to be a great read. It seems that the author hasn’t written anything else, but I really hope she does. Louise Hutcheson has a PhD in Scottish Literature from The University of Glasgow.

There’s a short prologue which is set in London 1953, but in no time we’re taken to Edinburgh, 1983 where the author Lewis Carson is about to give an interview to a young journalist after years of silence, but Lewis takes ill during the interview, and the action moves back to London 1953.

Back then Lewis Carson had been a lowly publishing assistant, not fitting in at the family business which was headed up by the bullying son of the owner. When a down-at-heel young woman presents him with her manuscript to be appraised he realises that it’s a great read, but sends her away disappointed, however he still has her MS.

When the young woman is murdered a couple of weeks later Lewis takes the opportunity to claim the MS as his own and it kicks off his writing career. But after writing many more books everyone agrees that none of them come up to the standard of his first book. Lewis doesn’t want to talk about that one though, it’s a taboo subject which weighs on his conscience and contributes to the break up of his marriage. Lewis realises that his whole life has been lived in a ‘paper cell’ of his own making. This was a cracking read.

Library books

It’s a good wee while since I blogged about any books that I’ve borrowed from the library – so here goes!

The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham was first serialised in 1927, but according to the Fantastic Fiction link it wasn’t published as a book until 1928. I think it’s the first Allingham book which I’ve read that doesn’t feature Albert Campion. I’m enjoying it, it only has 157 pages and I reached page 75 in one sitting.

Allingham

I decided to give M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth books a go so took out the first in the series Death of Gossip which was published in 1995. I’m not sure about this one and I’ve only seen snippets of the TV series, but I want to give it a go anyway as I know it was so popular. Mind you I’ve found that popularity is not always a plus where books or TV are concerned.

Beaton

Another by Margery Allingham – Hide My Eyes was first published in 1958. I requested this book and I assume that I did that because a blogger that I follow had recommended it recently, but it’s always late at night when I go onto the library website to request books – or even early in the morning, and I can’t remember doing it!

Allingham

I decided to do a bit of research about Shetland as we’ve been meaning to holiday there for a few years now. Shetland by Ann Cleeves seems an ideal place to begin. It has some gorgeous photographs, but one thing puzzles me. Everyone says that Shetland is so different from Orkney (which we have visited) but from the photos they look very alike to me. Maybe the people mean it’s different in atmosphere. I hope we’ll find out one day – but it’s quite a difficult place to get to by car and the ferry trip is very long. Well it is about halfway to Norway I suppose.

Shetland

Have you borrowed anything good out of the library recently? I know I should be concentrating on reading my own books, but I also feel the need to use the local libraries to keep their stats up. I suspect that the local council would be happy to close just about all of them.

Dunkeld, Perthshire

Dunkeld in Perthshire, or what I think is now called Perth and Kinross is one of my favourite places to visit, the drive up there is lovely and it isn’t too far from where we live. This time our visit was a bit different as we took an old friend with us, she hadn’t been there for decades, it’s not really the sort of place you go to on your own.
Dunkeld bridge, Perthshire

Anyway, I took some photos, mainly to show to another friend who used to fish in the area, but hasn’t been able to do that for years now. In the photo above I was standing on the bridge that takes you over the River Tay and into Dunkeld. My friend used to stay in the Atholl Hotel on the right on his fishing holidays.

Dunkeld Bridge, Perthshire

It was October but I think we were just a wee bit too late for the best of the autumn tree colour. The area in the photo below has changed quite a bit over the years, not the buildings obviously but they’ve spruced up the foreground and added more parking places by the side of the river which is just out of view. In the summer they put tables and chairs out near that area.

Dunkeld hotels, hills, Perthshire

The view to the other side of the bridge as you get into the Dunkeld is obscured by trees, but the trees are nicer than houses anyway.
Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland

Standing more or less on the middle of the bridge I took the photo below of the River Tay looking north.

River Tay north, Dunkeld, Perthshire

I pointed the camera a bit further to the right for the photo below, Dunkeld Cathedral is just beyond that area.
River Tay north, Dunkeld, Perthshire

I crossed the road to take the photos below of the River Tay looking south.
River Tay south, Dunkeld, Perthshire

River Tay south , Dunkeld, Perthshire

Really the trees below were looking good but they could be doing with having some trees with red leaves too, copper beech or maybe red maples, but maybe they wouldn’t grow so well there.
autumn trees, River Tay,Dunkeld Scotland

Beatrix Potter was inspired by the countryside here as she visited Dunkeld and Birnam with her parents on holiday every summer. You can read about that here.

When we were moving house all of almost six years ago now we looked around the Dunkeld area, just online, but there were only four houses for sale at the time and they were pricey in comparison with the other places we were looking. It’s maybe just as well, because it is quite far away from Edinburgh and we do enjoy being able to visit the city easily whenever we fancy. And if we lived in Dunkeld we wouldn’t be able to go there for a nice afternoon out every now and again!