The first jigsaw puzzle of the winter season has been completed. It was a lot easier than we thought it would be, but still challenging enough to be fun. The design has so many different and often unique shapes to the pieces which helped a lot.
The original artwork was painted by Sir Claude Francis Barry. If you’re interested in seeing more of his work you can do so here.
It’s definitely winter as it’s jigsaw season here again. I bought this one in a charity shop, so I hope all the pieces are there. Mind you buying one new and wrapped in plastic is no guarantee that all the pieces are there, and once I finished a puzzle and had several bits leftover – from a very different puzzle!
Anyway, I was attracted by this one which is titled Peace Celebrations, Moscow and it’s from a painting by Sir Claude Francis Barry. It’s painted in the Pointillist style.
I’ve been doing it mainly from the bottom upwards and it hasn’t been as difficult as I feared it might be, but now that I’ve reached the fireworks it’s becoming trickier. One thing I like about this puzzle is that the pieces are all different shapes, that makes it more interesting and slightly easier to find the correct piece I think.
The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart was first published in 1872 and then again in 1936 but my copy is a Persephone which was published in 2002.
Clarice is a 15 year old girl who is living with her father in quite a grand country house, but her mother is dead. She has a governess but lacks a friend of her own age. She’s a bit of a romantic, wishing she could have lived in the more exciting times of the past, in the times of the Charlses maybe.
Almost as soon as she says it a girl pops out of the hedge in front of her. Olga has run away from her school where she was badly treated according to her. There’s no doubt about it – Olga is a handful and I suspect her schoolteachers sighed with relief when she left it.
Clarice is enthralled by her new friend who is half Danish and half Scottish with a father in a Highland regiment (all very apt for Victorian times) and Clarice agrees to hide her in the house and feed her. Unfortunately Olga just can’t stop being naughty though and appears as a ghost in front of the governess and maid and Clarice realises that Olga is too much for her to cope with, she’ll have to track down Olga’s granny somehow as her parents are abroad – with the regiment.
I can see why this was chosen by Persephone, as it features a very unusual portrayal of a Victorian teenage girl, but I must admit that if this one had been the first Persephone book that I had read I would have thought more than twice about buying another one. It was mildly entertaining but wasn’t great. However the book is beautifully illustrated with lots of wood block prints by Gwen Raverat nee Darwin who was Charles Darwin’s granddaughter. You can see some of her work here.
I particularly liked the image below, but it’s nothing to do with this book.
It can be quite surprising what you see when you visit castles in Scotland. When we went to Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire – I have to say a couple of years ago now, I didn’t expect to see an exhibition of textiles and clothes by Marian Clayden who I hadn’t heard of before but is very well known in her field of textiles and weaving. You can see my earlier posts on Drum Castle here.
The photos really don’t do her work justice as you can’t see the textures so well. The fabric is mainly silk and velvet, absolutely sumptuous looking.
Marian Clayden was born in Preston, Lancashire which had a thriving textile industry back in the day, so her family was involved in various crafts, but I think we can safely say that Marian picked up that baton and ran with it. You can read about her life here.
She trained as a teacher but after having a couple of kids and being stuck at home she decided to try dyeing some textiles in her kitchen, using skills she had learned in her teacher training. Moving to San Francisco in 1967 must have influenced her hugely – with all of those flower power people and bright colours around the place.
Her career took off and there were exhibitions of her work all over the world. Sadly she died in 2015 but her work lives on in major collections all over the world in places such as the V&A in London and the Metropolitan in New York. We were just incredibly lucky to stumble across this exhibition in a Scottish Castle.
It must be quite a few years since I bought my copy of East of the Sun and West of the Moon – Old Tales from the North – illustrated by Kay Nielsen, but I’ve only just got around to actually reading the six fairy tales within it although I’ve often admired the illustrations. You can get the ebook free from Project Gutenberg here. These folk legends were collected by Asbjornsen and Moe in the 19th century.
Like most fairy tales they feature princesses, kings, godmothers, talking animals and quests, but as these tales are from Norway they also all feature trolls which are obviously a big thing in Scandinavian society which explains the presence of troll related ornaments all over tourist gift shops there. I really enjoyed the tales, but not quite as much as the artwork.
The artist Kay Nielsen was a stage designer, illustrator, painter of murals, a theatre art director and he was influenced by the British artist Aubrey Beardsley. In the 1930s he moved from Denmark to the USA where he worked for Walt Disney but it wasn’t a happy time for him and his wife and they ended up moving back to Denmark. He seems to have been a kind and gentle man, well-loved by his friends but was somehow tinged with Scandinavian melancholy.
If you want to see some of his beautiful work have a look here.
As you can see the famous statue of the Duke of Wellington on his horse Copenhagen in Glasgow is today sporting an updated version of his more usual traffic cone hat. It’s a very sad day here in Scotland as we leave the European Union, hopefully it won’t be for long.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Click on the photos if you want to read the details, that should enlarge them for you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.