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.
Helsinki in Finland was one of the destinations on our recent Baltic cruise. We decided to walk out to see the structure which commemorates the composer Sibelius – we walked and walked – and ‘better’ walked as the Scots phrase for too much goes, thinking we would never get there, but we did, just as three bus tours full of Chinese tourists descended on it. They all wanted an individual photo of themselves standing beside the monument for some reason, so it was quite some time before we could get an image of it on its own. Meanwhile I wondered if any of them had even heard of Sibelius, but for all I know they may have been a Chinese branch of his appreciation society!
I’m wondering if the designer got mixed up between Sibelius and Mendelssohn as it really reminds me of Fingal’s Cave which is the cave on the uninhabited Scottish island of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides which inspired Mendelssohn to write his best known piece of music of that name. you can see images of it here.
Below is the man himself and yes they did all have to have their photo taken with him – individually.
I found the video below on You Tube, it’s his Finlandia, Op. 26.symphonic. Apart from beautiful music it also shows amazing scenery and lots of animals as well as the northern lights.
A Capital View – The Art of Edinburgh – by Alyssa Jean Popiel is what used to be called a coffee table book – maybe it still is but I haven’t heard that term for yonks. It’s sumptuous and features one hundred artworks from Edinburgh City’s art collection. It must have been such a difficult task for the author to choose which artworks to include in the volume as Edinburgh City Council has been collecting since the middle of the 18th century. But this isn’t only a book which focuses on the artworks, it also gives lots of interesting details on the lives of the artists and the history of the areas featured in the images, and of course in lots of cases the places have been demolished and it’s lucky that the artists preserved them for posterity.
Below are a few of the artworks featured.
The Village of the Water of Leith from a Window in Rothesay Terrace by Sir William Fettes Douglas
North Bridge and Salisbury Crags by Adam Bruce Thomson
Plainstane’s Close, 1878 by Robert Noble
The Palace of Holyroodhouse by Claude Buckle (1960) which was a British Railways poster.
Although I borrowed this book from that library that I’m not supposed to be visiting, I think I might end up buying it as it’s so interesting.
A couple of weeks ago we had to go over to the west of Scotland – all of about 75 miles from us here in the east. We were picking up a table we had bought on Gumtree, but before doing that we had a look at the cathedral – can you believe we had never visited Glasgow Cathedral before? I’ll blog about that visit soon. I’m a bit pushed for time tonight and it’s nearly my bedtime so I give you – The Willow Tearooms in Buchanan Street, Glasgow. While we were waiting for our coffee and cream/jam scones to arrive (we made them Cornish style of course) I took a few photos. Luckily by this time it was getting on for 5 pm so there weren’t many others partaking of a stylish rest and snack.
You have to walk through a gift shop to get into the lower tearoom (which is still upstairs, just not as high up as the other one) and the demi lune chair below is situated there. The woman on the till offered to take a photo of us both on the chair, but that would have hidden the whole shape of it so we politely declined.
The upper room is called The Chinese Tearoom, but whenever we go there it’s almost always closed already, maybe we should get there earlier. The loos are up that way though so we were able to take photos of the very different style. I love that vibrant colour.
The chair below stands on a mezzanine landing.
The alcove below shows some of the things available to buy.
If you want to see some photos from a previous visit have a look at this blogpost that Jack wrote a few years ago.