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.

Castle Campbell, by Dollar, Clackmannanshire,

Castle Campbell, Dollar, Clackmannanshire, Scotland

Castle Campbell which is situated in Dollar Glen close to Dollar in Clackmannanshire. It was originally named Castle Gloom but was changed to Campbell in 1489-90 by Act of Parliament with the approval of King James IV. The word Gloom was probably from the Gaelic glom meaning a chasm. As you can see it was a gorgeous blue sky day when we visited at the end of October.

Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

Castle Campbell,Dollar, Scotland

Castle Campbell, great hall, Dollar, Scotland

Below is a photo taken from the top of a spiral staircase – you have to be fairly fit!
Castle Campbell, spiral staircase, Dollar, Scotland

The large vaulted room at the top has a cute wee window seat at one end, a perfect place to sit and read or admire the view.
Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

If you look carefully at the photo below you should be able to see two carvings of faces that look a bit like the Green Man. There are holes at the mouths and it’s thought that lamps probably hung from there.
Castle Campbell, ceiling face carvings

Onwards and upwards to the roof which would have been a good place to relax, away from the bustle of the castle and servants, somewhere to have a private conversation – and get away from the smell of the loos as many of the rooms have an ‘en suite’ – non flushing of course.
Castle Campbell roof, Dollar, Scotland

And a fine view can be had in all directions, below is a photo looking over to the wee town of Dollar.

view from Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

It’s a popular place with hill walkers, but we stuck close to the castle grounds, not feeling too energetic – and I didn’t bring the correct footwear – well that’s my excuse!

view from Castle Campbell, trees, Scotland

a view from Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

Of course there had to be water nearby and below is a rushing rushing burn, eager to join up with more of the same which could be heard thundering far below in the glen.

burn, Castle Campbell, Dollar Glen, Scotland

It’s definitely a good place to visit although there’s an uphill walk of about 800 yards from the car park so it’s not great for anyone who couldn’t tackle that by foot

Info Board, Castle Campbell

Lest We Forget – Markinch War Memorial, Fife

Markinch War Memorial after the Remembrance Service and wreath laying yesterday.

Markinch War Memorial

They Grow Not Old – Remembrance Sunday

On Friday we were guests at Perth Academy Remembrance Service which was only attended by a fraction of the school roll because it’s a big school and the hall wouldn’t accommodate them all, but what a lovely lot of youngsters they were.

World War 1 Memorial, Perth Academy, Scotland

As you can see, a lot of ‘old boys’ didn’t return from World War 1. Every year the history department chooses two names from the roll of honour and they research into their background, so that they become real people, not just names. Often some relatives are still living in the area and they are very happy to provide information on what they know of their ancestor. One was a talented footballer, another was an organist, and one modern day pupil once discovered that her family home had at one time been the family home of one of the fallen, so when it came to visiting the battlefields as part of the history course, his grave was sought out and some earth from his old garden was put onto it.

The war memorial is on the wall at the back of the assembly hall so they’re at the centre of things, not tucked away somewhere where they wouldn’t be seen often.

Flowers of the Forest, Perth Academy, Scotland, World War 1

Modern perspex silhouettes of soldiers have been placed in front of the memorial in recent years, sitting at an old double desk just like the ones they would have sat at in school.

World War 1 Memorial, Perth Academy, Scotland

The whole service was impressive, with lovely music from the school orchestra, singing and of course readings.

World War 1 Memorial, Perth Academy, Scotland

I/we went to an old school but I don’t recall anything being done to commemorate Remembrance Day, apart from a minute’s silence at 11 o’clock on the 11th of the 11th. I’m fairly sure that more is now made of Remembrance Day than used to be.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Robert Laurence Binyon apparently wrote the word contemn at the end of the second line, but everyone seems to have changed it to condemn now, which is quite a different meaning as contemn means to scorn, despise or treat with contempt.

The King’s Evil by Andrew Taylor

 The King's Evil cover

The King’s Evil by Andrew Taylor was published in 2019 and it’s the third book in his Marwood and Lovett series, the first one being The Fire Court and the second book The Ashes of London. It’s 1667 now, so just after the Great Fire of London and the city is obviously still in turmoil with homeless refugees forming lawless camps outside the city.

A body has been discovered down a well and Marwood is asked to investigate it. It turns out that it’s the body of Edward Alderley who is Cat Lovett’s cousin and a person that Cat despises for all sorts of reasons, not least because his branch of their family has robbed Cat of her inheritance. Marwood fears that Cat is the culprit since she had previously attacked Alderley, as she has disappeared things look very black for her, but Marwood is determined to save her from the noose. Obviously Marwood has to discover who the real murderer is.

As ever I’m not saying too much about the plot, suffice to say that for me there were plenty of surprises and interesting characters as well as historical details.

These books are so atmospheric of just how I imagine London to have been in the reign of Charles II. A dangerous place to be with huge differences in the wealth and poverty of the population – actually nothing much has changed in that regard in London!

The King's Evil End Papers

I really love the endpapers of this book however the publishers state that they are a map of the area of London affected by the Great Fire in 1666. This is obviously wrong and I suppose this is meant to show the type of grand house – Clarendon House, which appears in the book.

Guardian links

There were a few articles that really struck me in this week’s Guardian. The first one is titled Laws of Nature. Apparently a movement is gaining momentum that grants legal rights to natural phenomena such as rivers, lakes, trees and mountains. Robert Macfarlane investigates the rise of the new animism. I’m all for it if it means that such wonders of nature are going to be nurtured for future generations instead of being plundered and polluted for business purposes as they often are nowadays. But of course it’s not as simple as that. You can read the article here.

Novel Houses by Christina Hardyment is subtitled Twenty Famous Fictional Dwellings. I had it in my mind that writing books where houses are as much a character as the people was something that was done mainly by female authors, but of course I was wrong about that as you’ll see if you read the review here.

Have you read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy? I enjoyed them some years ago and I think that the new BBC1 dramatisation has been really well done. I hadn’t realised that Pullman had inadvertently invented the name Lyra. It’s quite a rare thing to do, but the inventors of Pamela, Miranda and Vanessa get a name check, however this article doesn’t mention that J.M. Barrie invented the name Wendy, from calling a little girl a ‘fwendy’ originally.

If we were lucky enough to have a daemon (animal manifestation of the human soul) what would yours be? Mine changes from time to time, but then I am a Gemini – allegedly! Having a red squirrel daemon appeals to me at the moment.

Doreen by Barbara Noble

 Doreen cover

Doreen by Barbara Noble was first published in 1940 but my copy is a Persephone. I really enjoyed this one which begins in London during the heavy bombing of the Blitz. Walking to her work as an office cleaner through devastated streets Mrs Rawlings whose soldier husband has left her, decides that she’ll have to do what most mothers have already done which is to send her only child, nine year old Doreen away to the country for safety. After the previous night’s bombing she no longer has any faith that the bomb shelter will keep her and Doreen safe.

When Helen Osborne, one of the secretaries at the office finds Mrs Rawlings in tears she wonders if she can help by offering a country home to Doreen with her married sister Francie and her husband who are childless. They haven’t been allocated any evacuees because their home is seen as being too remote from a village for convenience. Francie quickly agrees to the plan and in no time she’s imagining what the little girl will be like.

After a shaky start Doreen settles down to life in a situation very different from what she’s used to. She has gone from a one room slum in London to living in a large country house and as she has been well brought up and she’s also quite clever and likeable, it isn’t long before Francie loves Doreen, she has always been sentimental about children. Geoffrey her husband has left the decision to take Doreen in up to Francie. He suffers from asthma and blames himself for not giving her a child. But inevitably Doreen’s mother is torn and visiting Doreen in the country she realises that Doreen has moved into a very different class from her poverty stricken previous existence and she doesn’t approve of it, she’s jealous and she knows that when the time comes for Doreen to go home she’ll never settle to life in a London slum again. It isn’t going to end well, but this is a really good read.

Considering that Doreen was written so early on in the war Barbara Noble must have quickly realised how evacuating the children to the countryside was going to make all sorts of problems for all concerned. It’s something that I’ve always known about as I’ve known people who were affected by it. One man in particular that I knew was very much surplus to requirement in his own large family and being evacuated to a loving couple was a definite plus for him and no doubt for them too. Luckily they did keep in touch after he had to go back home and they were the family that he had always wanted to be part of, I don’t think his parents were that bothered about losing him though.

Falkland Palace autumn gardens

Falkland Palace, gardens, Fife, Scotland

A couple of weeks ago I decided that we should visit the nearby Falkland Palace, before they shut the place for the winter. I specifically wanted to see what the gardens looked like as autumn crept up on us. In the photo above you can see the palace and ruins as viewed from the back. The palace was built as a pleasure palace, mainly used as the ‘hunting palace’ of the Stuarts. It was a favourite place of Mary Queen of Scots as it reminded her of the French palaces she had grown up in.

Falkland Palace, gardens, Fife, Scotland
It was even a wee bit misty – as befits the season.
Falkland Palace, gardens, Fife, Scotland

I think I zoomed in on the one below too closely as it looks a bit pixelated, but it gives you an idea of the autumnal shades.

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

The stone building in the photo below houses the real or royal tennis court. One time we went there people were actually playing real tennis, I think it calls for more skill than the modern version. The court is the oldest surviving one in the country, I think there are only a couple more of them.

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

I took the photo below just by turning around after taking the photo above it, so we’re looking back in the direction of the palace again.

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

The church in the photo below is next door to the palace, but it’s a lot more modern than the palace which dates from 1501, but there was a hunting lodge belonging to the Macduff Thanes of Fife, as long ago as the 12th century.
Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

Click here if you want to see more photos and read a bit more about Falkland Palace which is now run by the Scottish National Trust.

You can see images of the real tennis court here. It’s a complicated game as you get points for hitting the ball through the windows in the back wall so the scoring system must be very different. You serve by hitting the ball onto the small sloping roof at the side.

We did go inside the palace but they don’t allow you to take photos which is a shame. The chapel is still used as the Roman Catholic church for the area. However as lots of people are very happy to dodge the rules there are images online of the interior of the chapel which you can see here.

Like so many places in Scotland, Falkland has been used as a location for filming Outlander.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare – The Classics Club spin 21

The Tempest cover

A wee bit late, but I got my Classics Club spin choice finished. I actually began reading The Tempest ages ago and got half way through it before being distracted by something else, so when I eventually got back to it I started from the beginning again. This is probably the last play that William Shakespeare wrote, way back in 1610-1611.

Prospero was the Duke of Milan but he wasn’t really interested in ruling his kingdom as he was obsessed by honing his skills as a magician. Prospero was happy to allow his younger brother Antonio to take over all the power that he should have had, but in time Antonio decided that he wanted to have his brother’s title too, so he deposed Prospero who managed to escape with his three year old daughter Miranda, helped by his trustworthy servant Gonzalo.

When the play begins twelve years have passed since Prospero and Miranda landed on an island somewhere in the Mediterranean, and Prospero has been practising his magic arts aided by the books he managed to take with him and Ariel who is a spirit, he/she had been held captive on the island by a witch who had lived there earlier along with her son Caliban. Prospero has been able to send a huge storm to blast a ship which has his treacherous brother on board, among many others, including Ferdinand who is the son of the King of Naples who was also on the ship. Ferdinand thinks he is the only survivor of the shipwreck and when he and Miranda meet it’s love at first sight. But when Prospero meets Ferdinand he sets him to work for him, hauling firewood around, that’s not something that the heir to a throne is used to doing.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the island some of the other survivors who had been returning from a wedding are plotting to kill King Alonso, but Ariel gets wind of the plot and foils it. There’s a lot of confusion and some drunkeness among the survivors – but what can I say except – All’s well that ends well except that’s another of his plays.

That’s the thing about reading Shakespeare, you keep coming across phrases that have become part of the English language, and often you don’t realise that they were first written by Shakespeare, and of course other writers have borrowed them. The phrase – this rough magic appears a few times to which I say Step forward Mary Stewart. His words have found their way into our psyche whether we realise it or not. I expect we’ve all heard from Act 4 scene 1:

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep

It’s thought that he was inspired to write this play on hearing of what happened to a fleet of nine ships which set sail for Virginia. The ship the Sea Adventure was separated from the other ships during a storm and washed up near Bermuda, stuck between two rocks. The crew and most of the cargo and fittings managed to get ashore safely, but it was assumed that they had all perished and it was some time before they managed to continue their journey to Virginia.

Shakespeare knew some of the people involved and was able to read an original letter from William Strachey which described the strange experiences of those who had been shipwrecked.

It seems that nothing changes as I know that writers today often get their ideas from things that they see in the news.

Anyway – that’s The Tempest under my belt – so to speak. It’s a great read and I can only imagine how enthralling it must have been for the original audience and will definitely try to watch a modern version of it, but not too modern as I prefer my Shakespeare to come with period costumes and stage sets. I just love Arthur Rackham’s illustrations.

How did you get on with your Classics Club spin book?

The Tempest

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine cover

A lot of people seem to have been reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman which was published in 2017, and I had no intention of doing so too as I tend to dodge what seems to be flavour of the month. Then I discovered that it’s written by a Scot and Jack borrowed it from the library and suggested that I should read it too – so I did and I really loved it. The setting is Glasgow but really it doesn’t feature in the book, it could have been set anywhere I think.

Eleanor Oliphant is almost thirty and working in the accounts department of a small company, despite having a Classics degree. She leads a very narrow life with no friends and has no idea how to interact with other people. Socialising is a complete mystery to her, consequently she’s seen as a bit of an odd bod by her work colleagues and it doesn’t help that one side of her face has been damaged by fire.

The one interaction she has apart from work is a weekly phone call from her mother who calls to abuse Eleanor verbally, she dreads the calls but seems unable to take control and put a stop to them. There’s a mystery about where her mother is. Is she in a prison, or maybe a state mental hospital? Obviously Eleanor has been badly damaged both physically and mentally by her upbringing. She’s still being visited by social workers and the only relationships in her life (if they can be called that) are with Polly her houseplant, Tesco supermarket which she loves and Glen’s vodka which she quaffs by the bottle at weekends. She definitely isn’t completely fine.

She’s suffering from arrested development among many other things, and she develops a huge crush on a musician who it turns out lives near her. Eleanor is convinced that her future lies with the musician and sets about transforming her image starting with a perplexing but hilarious visit to a waxing salon (French, Brazilian or Hollywood?) Slowly she begins to get to grips with modern life, helped by Raymond the IT guy’s friendship with her which develops when she needs his help with her computer at work, and bit by bit the reader learns about what has led to the development of Eleanor’s weird and anti-social character.

Or do we? As Jack says – she could be seen as being a very unreliable narrator and the truth could be completely different from how she portrays it. I like to think of her as a victorious victim though, but no doubt that is because I loved the character of Eleanor who had a hard time fitting in anywhere and understanding other people. I enjoyed seeing her learn how to interact in the modern world, even although that involved her doing things that I’ve never felt the need to do such as learning how to put on make-up or getting my nails done.

The Classics Club spin number 21 – not quite

I think I’ve completed all of the Classics Club spins and I intend to finish number 21 but for the first time I haven’t managed to finish my book (The Tempest) within the time allotted. I got The Tempest in the spin, something I’ve been wanting to read for years.

However, October just ran away from me and before I knew it it was the end of the month – where did the rest of it go? I’ll have my thoughts on The Tempest on ‘Pining’ by tomorrow. Honest!