The Loud Halo by Lillian Beckwith

 The Loud Halo cover

The Loud Halo by Lillian Beckwith was first published in 1964 and it’s the third book in her Hebridean series. These books are comic novels set in the village of Bruach where ‘Miss Peckwit’ has gone to recover from an illness, she had been a teacher in the north of England. Life on a remote and primitive Scottish island is very different from what she has been used to. There’s no indoor plumbing, actually no plumbing at all, no running water just a well and the toilet is a shed with a big bucket – if you have a man strong enough to lug it out. Lillian makes do with two earth sheds which she takes turns at using and seems to think that’s hygienic enough.

By this time Lillian has been well and truly accepted by the locals and is even speaking some Gaelic. The books are stories of her encounters with her neighbours who all seem to be eccentric. There’s Kirsty who treats her poor brother like a slave and she steals her neighbour’s crops with no conscience involved, her neighbour ends up having to move.

More and more tourists are arriving, despite the midges and they are turning out to be good business opportunities for the locals. Quite a lot of this book deals with the things that the islanders get up to in order to get money, including the government assistance which they all seem to be on, there’s also an awful lot of boozing going on. I had a feeling that life on the island was beginning to lose its charm for Beckwith and indeed at the end of the book she has packed up and the villagers are seeing her off at the station. She did write some more Hebridean books in later years though.

It was a wee bit of a Miss Buncle situation – if you’re familiar with that D.E. Stevenson book you’ll know that Miss Buncle wrote a book about life in her own village which became very successful. The trouble was that all of the characters were far too recognisable and none of them was happy at being put in her book!

This book is a good light read, a glimpse back to the days before everyone on the islands had all mod cons. By the time I went to Skye for the first time in 1970 the locals even had freezers which I was very impressed with as we only had a small fridge with ice box at home. Our old friends who had gone back to live on Skye again after a five year sojourn in Glasgow had a freezer in their living room, it was one of those sliding lid ones and thinking about it I think it actually said ‘Wall’s ice cream’ on it! Anyway, I still have a few of these Beckwith books to read so I’ll continue with the series at some point in the future.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I had intended doing a ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ post on this particular day – the 20th of January 2017 – but in all honesty it was turning out to be quite a slim post. So I decided that in these interesting, not to say crazy times we are living in, Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life fitted the bill better.

Fingers crossed!

Victoria Wood 1953-2016

We were driving along happily listening to the radio this afternoon, it was a beautiful day with a promise of summer around the corner and a day and evening out in Edinburgh on our immediate agenda – when the first thing on the radio news was the death of Victoria Wood. What a terrible year this is turning out to be with the loss of yet another ‘national treasure’.

I remember Victoria Wood as far back as watching her on that TV talent show that brought her to everyone’s attention, and I know I’ve blogged about her before. It was unusual for a woman to be doing stand-up comedy back then in the 1970s, she was a real trail-blazer I think but she was just hilarious. I never tire of hearing that comedy song The Ballad of Freda and Barry (Let’s Do It)

I suppose she knew how much she was loved in the UK, she got a couple of BAFTAs I’m sure – for dinnerladies, which is one of the few sit- coms that I have on DVD. It’s unusual in that the love interest becomes seriously ill so it was always tempered with a hint of sadness, but of course he got better, it’s a pity that Victoria couldn’t write a happy ending like that for her own serious illness, and so typical of her that she kept it quiet as she was a very private person, not at all like most entertainers. She was crippled with shyness in her earlier years and she apparently only really got over that when she was in her late 40s, like many of us – saying that somehow being shy didn’t seem appropriate for a person of her age.

I watched her playing the part of Nella Last in Housewife 49 and was gobsmacked that she turned out to be such a good serious actress. It’s such a shame that she didn’t get a chance to expand on that talent.

To see what Jack said about Victoria on his blog look here.

Spitting Image – Politics and Royalty

I know that we’re in dire straits and all that but I can’t help feeling that we are in even more need of a good laugh than we were way back in the glory days of Spitting Image. What has happened to satire? Here we are in the middle of a General Election campaign and there’s nothing poking fun at politicians. I think perhaps that things are so bad that we’re reaching the weeping stage.

Anyway, I was having a trawl through You Tube the other day, what a nostalgic trip that was! I hope you can see these clips if you happen to be on the other side of the world even if it is all ancient History now.

Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson

Notes from a Big Country is the first Bill Bryson book which I’ve read, I’m wondering just how it has taken me so long to get around to him? I’m reliably informed by Joan@ Planet Joan that in the US this book is titled I’m a Stranger Here Myself. The book was first published in 1998 which means that in places it is a bit outdated and quaint, because sadly the UK often ends up copying the mistakes of the US, such as people trying to sue folks for the daftest of reasons. It also reminds us just how massive the US is compared with the UK. I learned from this book that it isn’t at all unusual for aeroplanes to crash – and never be found! Planes as big as Lear jets, not just wee two seaters, mind boggling.

This book which is made up of newspaper columns which were mainly published in the Mail on Sunday I think, is a hoot and perfect bedtime reading, in fact anytime you have a spare few minutes you could dip into this book to cheer you up, whilst you’re waiting in a queue maybe!

The topics are wildly different, so never a dull moment. Here are just a few of the titles:
Coming Home
Our Friend the Moose
Drowning in Red Tape
Why No One Walks
A Visit to the Barbershop
Where Scotland is, and Other Useful Tips

I’ve heard that Notes from a Small Country is also hilarious so that’s the next one in my sights. Does anyone have any other books by Bryson they can recommend?

Not Starry Starry Night – Vincent van Gogh

As it’s Burns Night tonight I made the vegetarian haggis from the recipe which was in the Guardian earlier in the week. You can see it here. I’m not inflicting a photo of my version as haggis is never appetising looking but it tasted good anyway. I changed it slightly, substituting soy sauce for the Marmite as I hate the stuff and I added more pulses in the shape of haricot and cannellini beans. I also halved the quantities as there are only the two of us around the table nowadays, but I still have plenty leftover – so no cooking required tomorrow, luxury!

Below is a photo of the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle which we began about a week ago when the weather was really cold and we were just semi hibernating. It didn’t take us as long as I thought it would. The worst part was definitely the road/pavement at the bottom of the picture, the cobble stones. I originally thought it was Starry Starry Night (or The Starry Night) but it isn’t. It’s The Cafe Terrace at Night.

jigsaw puzzle

Now when you are reading or saying van Gogh remember to pronounce the ‘gh’ properly – a lovely guttural sound as in the word ‘loch’ – none of this Vincent van Go nonsense! In fact the first G should be guttural too.

I’m now searching for another jigsaw puzzle which I bought recently, it’s of a British Rail poster of The Trossachs. I tidied it away before Christmas and now I can’t find it, don’t you just hate when that happens. That’s my excuse for preferring clutter, at least then I know where everything is!

Have you seen the Laurel and Hardy film which is about a disaster which befalls Ollie when Stan starts a jigsaw puzzle – hilarious.

Visit Scotland 2014/Rab C. Nesbitt/Dick Emery

I did mention a wee while ago that 2014 is going to be a big year in Scotland, in fact it’s a Homecoming Year as well as being our Independence Referendum year. You can read all about some of the events which will be going on throughout Scotland at the Visit Scotland site.

If you are feeling fraught at the moment what with the stress of the coming season you might like to cheer yourself up with a look at some old Scottish comedy from Rab C. Nesbitt. You can see him having a wee bit of a rant below. Anyone who has trouble understanding David Tennant’s accent might find this interesting!

Just to even things up I’m mentioning an English comedian too as
it has come to my notice that Dick Emery didn’t make it to the US in the way that Benny Hill did. If you want to see some of his sketches have a look below, they’re mostly from the 1970s, my favourite decade, although the first one is the 60s I think. One of his most popular characters was Mandy, who never did master the art of walking in high heels, that’s the one thing I have in common with ‘her’.

Laurel and Hardy – Me and My Pal

I read that Kate Atkinson book When Will There Be Good News a while ago and there never was good news in that book – so depressing, and the whole world seems to be stuck in a horrible no good news cycle at the moment too.

Anyway, if like me, you are in need of something to cheer you up a bit, you might like to have a look at this Laurel and Hardy film. It was always one of my favourites, and this time of the year (Christmas) is usually jigsaw season for us, so it seemed appropriate.

Dorothy Paul – a Scottish comedienne

I was looking on You Tube for a particular clip of The Glaswegian comedienne Dorothy Paul, but sadly it doesn’t seem to exist. It was something which she said about bad hair styles, to the effect that a bad perm meant house arrest for 3 months because you couldn’t go out in public until it had grown out. It was Peggy Ann’s comment on a dodgy hairdo which had her crying for ages which set me off thinking about Dorothy Paul.

I think we’ve all probably been the victims of bad hairdressers in the past, in fact that’s why I avoided going to a salon for about 30 years, it is safer to hack at it myself!

In the 1970s for some unaccountable reason I got my hair permed for the first and only time. Unfortunately the woman who should have done it had to take her child to an emergency dental appointment, you see how all of the details are seared into my memory! The upshot was that my poor locks were assaulted by a junior who was obviously clueless and I left the salon about four hours later with the most hideous bubble hairdo and stinking of perm solution. My hair felt like cotton wool and worst of all she had even permed my fringe (I think that’s ‘bangs’ in the US). Anyway I looked like something which had escaped from a mental institution and I had to go straight to work in the library like that as my shift was 1 p.m. until 8 p.m.

When I eventually got home I washed my hair about half a dozen times in an attempt to get it back to normal, or at least get rid of the smell. I managed to make it look a bit better but it felt like cotton wool for ages afterwards, is that normal with a perm? Anyway, I learned my lesson the hard way, no more perms!

I did find a Dorothy Paul clip which does mention a haircut, I think I’ve had some of this clip on here before but I thought it might be of interest to some people. In this clip which was filmed at a Glasgow theatre, Dorothy Paul is in character as a theatre cleaner. I wonder if non Scots can understand it all?! We actually saw the whole show when it toured the provinces years ago. She’s really very funny.

I once went into a salon with my hair about waist length, intending to have a couple of inches trimmed off the ends. At that time some kids in the library called me ‘the lady with the golden hair’. The hairdresser raved about my ‘beautiful’ hair – then trimmed it all off up to my ears!

Have you been assaulted by a hairdresser?

New Carpet

carpet and  boots

I had wanted to do a before and after photo of the dining-room but it wasn’t to be. So here’s a photo of the new carpet which as you can see is a sort of oatmeal colour and has a slightly textured pattern on it which you can’t really see here. The carpet fitter was absolutely brilliant at his job – how often can you say that – and I’m really pleased with it especially as it won’t show up the crumbs so much! The old carpet was charcoal grey, a big mistake as it showed up every speck.

The boots are new too, I bought them when we were in England recently. My legs are normally covered up, this is a rare outing for them. My Dad always commented that he didn’t know I had legs whenever they got an airing! I’m not a shoe person at all, in fact I view shoes as objects of torture because I’m always bleeding from my heels and blistered so I tend to avoid them and wear clogs and flat boots all the time and then my feet are fine. I couldn’t walk in high heels to save my life. As a kid I dreaded the start of the new school term and new shoes. Those Clarks shoes were agony, I might as well have worn biscuit tins!

I haven’t been able to blog or visit blogs much for the last few days as I’ve been doing so much running around and trying to finish off things in the house before everyone gets here. So tomorrow I just have to bake the birthday boy’s cake and make the birthday meal – and then it’s Christmas! I hope your Christmas plans are on schedule.

I usually do a wee Winter Solstice blogpost, but not this year as I was so busy. The 21st here was indeed the darkest most dismal day and I could’ve been doing with a party then to cheer me up . It was one of those days when you needed a lamp on all the time – positively dreich. I’m so looking forward to having more light soon.

In Scotland we’re being encouraged to dose ourselves up with vitamin D, the easiest way is to take cod liver oil (yeugh). Apparently it’s the lack of sunlight here which gives us the highest rates of MS in the world. I’m going to be making my way to the health food shop soon and on that cheery note – cheerio.

If you’re in need of a bit of a laugh at the moment, give yourself a treat and watch good old Dick Emery. If I wore high heels I would walk like the ‘charming young lady’!