Kemback, Fife, Scotland

I was mooching around on Kingsbarns beach a while ago, it was just after a big storm and I practically fell over some stones with fossils in them. I’ve been back there since and haven’t been lucky enough to find anything interesting like that again, so I googled fossils in Fife and a village called Kemback was mentioned.

Now I’ve lived in Fife for over 35 years but I had never heard of Kemback before, so it was put on a list of places to visit, and one beautiful afternoon last week we got around to going there.

It’s close to Cupar and in Victorian times a mill was built there, taking advantage of the rushing water of the Ceres Burn which looks far too big to be called a burn if you ask me. The photo below is of a lovely waterfall which feeds into the river after running underneath the road. At some point it runs into the River Eden I believe.

Kemback waterfall

The waterfall is to the left of the Community Hall which you can see in the photo below.
Kemback waterfall
There are quite a few big-ish houses and a row of small terraced houses that must have been built for the mill workers, there’s a community hall and up a very steep hill stands a church and a graveyard.

But it’s the waterfall gushing down a cliffside that is the most attractive aspect of the place, it’s the one reason to visit the village really as although the waterfall feeds into the ‘burn’ there seems to be no easy way to access the burn banks or the enticing woodland over the other side of it which is really frustrating.

I love bridges in general and this one is a cute wee thing, it’s a shame about the rubbish that someone has probably chucked out of a passing car, litter seems to be all over Fife and it’s about time they started fining people because where there is a fine, such as around the Glasgow area – there is no litter on the roadside verges.

Kemback Bridge

As you can see from the photo below, it’s a fairly skinny road through Kemback, but not so narrow that passing places are needed.
Kemback cliffs

The road leading up to the church was another matter though, it’s very steep and narrow and I was terrified that we would meet a monster of a 4×4 coming in the opposite direction – but we were lucky, it’s a surprisingly busy teeny road. The church is a replacement of the original one which is just a shell in the middle of the graveyard and it was built in 1586.

Kemback Church and War Memorial

As you can see the World War 1 war memorial is in the shape of a Celtic cross.

It was the old church that really interested me, it’s situated below where the existing church is now and is surrounded by a graveyard which is still in use, but some of the graves go back hundreds of years. The church was built in 1582 and it replaced one from 1244, so it’s a fairly early Christian area. There’s only one World War 1 grave which is in front of the church in the photo, the poor soul must have been brought back home wounded – and lingered until 1920.

Old Kemback Church

The photos below were taken inside the church, where there are some ancient gravestones.
Old Kemback Church
Old Kemback Church

A view of some of the surrounding hills.
hills, Kemback< Fife

We went for a wee walk beyond the village and below is a photo of the road leading back into it. The orange thing to the left in the distance is a temporary barrier as it looks like some idiot had crashed into the wall recently. The walls around Fife seem to have taken a battering over this winter one way or another.
Kemback road

No doubt in the past this area has been quite industrial but now it’s a quiet backwater, apart from the roaring of the water that fuelled the industry.
3rd waterfall

There’s nothing else in the village apart from the community hall and the church it seems. Nobody has been tempted to open up a tearoom – which would no doubt have bought loads of visitors, but I’m not surprised that the inhabitants want to keep the place to themselves. I didn’t see anywhere that looked like a good place to find fossils, but we had a lovely afternoon out there.

You can see more images of Kemback here.

Recent book purchases – Mary Stewart

I’ve been looking for these Mary Stewart books and although I had been hoping to find hardbacks in a secondhand bookshop, I decided to settle for the copies in the photo below when I found them in a Stockbridge, Edinburgh bookshop. The covers are so of their time. Airs Above the Ground is a 1967 reprint, it was originally published in 1965. Mr Brother Michael was published in 1959 but this reprint was published in 1971 – the eighth impression.
Mary Stewart
I did read a lot of Mary Stewart’s books way back in the 1970s but I think that I missed Airs Above the Ground and My Brother Michael back then, so I’m really looking forward to reading them soon – for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge of course.

If you are a regular visitor to ‘Pining’ then you’ll realise that Stockbridge in Edinburgh is my favourite stamping ground for books, but when I’m there I never take any photos of the place, I’m too busy perusing book and charity shops and also it’s quite a busy area so it would be impossible to take photos without getting a lot of people in them. So if you want to know what Stockbridge looks like have a keek here.

Visit Scotland – and Stromness, Orkney

I’ve received another email from Visit Scotland, telling of the many attractions of this country. You can see it all here.

We’re already booked up for Stromness in Orkney later in the year and you can see some of its attractions here.

It looks very peaceful in this photo but I imagine it must be quite a busy place – when the ferry comes in anyway.

Stromness

Joan Eardley Exhibition

Joan Eardley

On Thursday afternoon we went to Edinburgh to visit the Scottish artist Joan Eardley’s exhibition at the Modern Art Gallery 2 Sadly this exhibition isn’t free, I think it cost £9 but we became ‘friends’ of the galleries which is well worth the money if you enjoy visiting art exhibitions. Firstly we parked the car at the wrong gallery and had to walk across the road to Gallery 2. Then when we did get there I was quite disappointed because there was just one small room with her Glasgow children paintings on display and I nearly left a comment saying I was disappointed that it was so small. Just as well I didn’t as it turned out that there are four more rooms full of her work upstairs. lots of them are landscapes of the wee village of Catterline that she stayed in for years, travelling between her cottage there and her studio in Glasgow. Catterline is north east of Aberdeen, and in the 1950s when she was painting there they still had a small salmon fishing business going on. She bought a cottage there for £30, it had no running water or anything but even so, I wonder how much those cottages cost nowadays!

It’s fair to say that Eardley’s paintings of the Samson children who lived in a flat beneath her studio in Glasgow are not things of beauty. They were living in abject poverty – a family of twelve children who were all models for Eardley, but when you see the actual paintings you see the detail in the background and she captured the essence of a time and place that no longer exists. There are three short films in the exhibition too where you can see her at work and old Glasgow of the 1950s in a film about renewal plans.

The Catterline paintings were my favourites though and there were a couple that I would happily have hung on walls in my home. Unfortunately as usual the gallery shop didn’t have any prints of my favourites.

The exhibition also has a lot of photographs of the Samson children and letters from the artist to friends and her sister. It’s so sad that she died of breast caner when she was only 42, especially as one of the letters says that she is going to the doctor because her bosom was giving her such a lot of pain. Obviously she should have gone to the doctor a lot earlier than she did.

If you’re interested in seeing images of her artwork have a look here.

You can see images of Catterline here.

Catterline

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

 His Bloody Project cover

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet was of course shortlisted for the Booker prize, I haven’t read any of the others shortlisted or indeed the winner but I can’t imagine that they would have been as good as this one. Burnet portrays Culduie and its surrounding areas and inhabitants so well, down to the rivalry that there often is between one settlement and the nearest neighbouring one, who tend to be seen as barbarians for some reason. The book is set towards the late 1860s and it’s 1869 when everything comes to a head.

The subtitle of the book is Documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae. More than half of the book is written by seventeen year old Roderick Macrae who is in a prison cell in Inverness, accused of the murder of three of his neighbours. Roderick has admitted to the deed, in fact he could hardly deny it as he had walked through the tiny hamlet of Culduie in the Highlands – covered in their blood.

After a campaign of bullying by Lachlan Broad – the local constable and a figure of authority tasked with seeing that the inhabitants of Culduie kept the area in order – Roddy snapped, the last straw being when an eviction order was delivered to his father.

Roddy’s relationship with his father was a strained one, which only got worse after the death of his mother who had been a bit of a buffer for him, protecting Roddy from the worst excesses of his father’s Presbyterian strictness which included beating Roddy on a weekly basis for no real reasons.

Roddy’s advocate hopes to prove that his client committed the murders when he was more mad than bad, it’s the only thing that will save him from the gallows.

But when it comes to the actual trial Roddy’s account of things doesn’t tally with the forensic evidence from the bodies. Something doesn’t quite add up.

Of course there’s a lot more to this book than that, but as ever I don’t want to give a blow by blow account of it. It’s a great read though, but not exactly an uplifting one.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge. Jack has read it too.

Visit Scotland Burns Night tips

Are you all organised for Burns Night on Wednesday? I am as I’m stocked up with various veggies, beans and lentils, not forgetting black pepper, the main flavouring of haggis. Yes I’m making my own version of haggis again.

In fact we’re going to another Burns Supper on Thursday night too, that’ll be a traditional haggis, turnip and tatties I think, but no dancing will be going on.

If you want to know what should happen at a traditional Burns Night have a look at Visit Scotland’s Burns Night tips. You can even see some wee videos of the dancing involved, that’s the easiest way of experiencing it – armchair dancing, the real thing is absolutely exhausting!

Another Trip to Edinburgh

Last week we decided to have another jaunt over to Edinburgh, mainly to visit the J.M.W. Turner watercolour exhibition which is on every January and then disappears for the rest of the year.

So we made our way along Princes Street to The National Gallery where we met up with a couple of family members who had never seen the watercolours. You can have a look at the collection and watch a wee video here. It’s a bit of an annual pilgrimage for us, but this time it was busier than usual, it serves us right for going on a Saturday!

After that it was time for lunch so we crossed Princes Street and went up South Saint David Street (I think – I’m not good with Edinburgh’s geography), turned left into George Street to have lunch at The Dome. It’s a fabulously ornate building in Edinburgh’s New Town (which of course is quite old by now, Georgian in fact.)
Dome

The Dome

The Dome was indeed originally a bank, it definitely has that feel about it, very opulent, all of our poshest buildings seem to have been built by banks – nothing changes does it?

The Dome

The Dome

You can see more images of The Dome here.

After that we went back up to Princes Street, really so that we could sign up to become ‘friends’ of The National Galleries.
Princes Street

Princes Street

Then we walked through the Christmas market, I thought it would have been cleared away by now but it’s still hanging on. It is really incongruous to see these fairground rides sitting cheek by jowl with Sir Walter Scott’s monument. I must say that they do get a great view of it from those swing seats but you won’t catch me up there!

Princes Street Gardens Christmas 7

The Forth Bridges – floodlit

Forth Bridge

Back to our October 2016 cruise and I woke up in the dark, realising that our ship Black Watch must have entered the Firth of Forth because there was almost no movement at all and very little engine noise.

Forth Bridge

I shot out of bed and luckily managed to locate the camera in the dark, Jack was still out for the count. The two photos above are of the Forth Bridge which is for trains only. It’s the one on my header.

I was just in time to take these photos of the bridges as we went under them, I took lots but most of them didn’t come out.

These ones are quite atmospheric though, certainly if you know what you’re looking at anyway.

The new road bridge is still under construction, but it’s not far off being finished.

new bridge the Queensferry Crossing

new bridge

If you want to see more photos under construction have a look here.

The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh by Chiang Yee

The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh cover

The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh by Chiang Yee was a purchase from a second-hand bookshop in Morningside, Edinburgh, in fact they had two copies of it, a modern paperback reprint and a reprint hardback from 1954 which was in really great condition and not much dearer than the paperback. The book was originally published in 1948. He dedicated The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh – TO THE SPIRITS OF THE MAGNOLIA IN THE ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN – obviously one of his favourite places.

What a lovely volume this is, it’s a really interesting read and has lots of charming illustrations painted by the author himself. Chiang Yee was one of those multi-talented people, he was born in China where he rose to the position of magistrate before moving to London in 1933 where he was an academic, he was also a poet, artist, calligrapher and in this book he mentions that he had previously designed sets for a ballet. He wrote a whole series of these ‘Silent Traveller’ books on various places including London, the Lake District, Oxford and Boston.

Apart from travelling around Edinburgh (a place he obviously knew well) and commenting on the culture and people, he also compared Scotland and the Scots with the Chinese, saying the two countries were very similar culturally and the scenery reminded him of China too. In reading this book I got a glimpse into Edinburgh of the past (not so different from nowadays) and also a peek at China of the 1930s. Yee was a Confucian and he writes about that too. It seemed to rain a lot whenever he was in Edinburgh and as he enjoyed rain it was never a problem for him.

He was very well read in British literature and mentions that Robert Burns is known all over China – but Shakespeare isn’t. The author also says: ‘I can make any Scotsman smile when I say that I read a number of Scott’s novels in Chinese translations before I could read English.’

He noticed that one difference between the English and Scots is that the English can never pronounce anything that they perceive to be foreign. ‘Oh dear me, by the way, do you know this author? His name is very difficult for me to pronounce.’ – remarked one person to Chiang Yee, the name was actually the author’s although he didn’t admit to it.

At various times he was inspired to write poems that he included in the book and these are written in Chinese characters too. Despite wartime paper shortages his books were kept in print throughout the war. I’m not sure if this was because they were so popular or because he knew people in high places, or maybe a combination of both those things. Chiang Yee moved to the US in 1955 where he became Emeritus Professor of Chinese at Columbia University.

As a Glaswegian I just wish that he had written a similar book about Glasgow. He does mention that every time he went to Glasgow he would meet men who told him of their experiences working in China, usually in some sort of engineering/shipbuilding capacity. Yee seems to have spent most of his time in Edinburgh staying in hotels, I can’t help thinking that if he had been based in Glasgow he would have had been invited to stay in umpteen peoples’ homes, there would have been fights to offer him hospitality!

I’m going to look for his Lake District book next. Have you read any of his books?

If you want to see what the book illustrations are like you can see some of them here.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge – it’s my second Scottish read of the year.

Visit Scotland – Orkney

Scapa Flow

One of the places we hope to visit this year is Orkney, doesn’t the photo of Scapa Flow above look great?! It’s all incredibly historic, or maybe I mean pre-historic.

The photo below is of Skara Brae, I’ve wanted to go there for years even although I thought it was just what you can see in the photo, but last week I saw it on TV and the site is much bigger than this. The dwellings are 5,000 years old.

Skara Brae

You can see lots more photos of Orkney on Visit Scotland here.