Dumbarton Rock, west Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Last week when we were in Dumbarton, where I grew up and Jack was born, we had a wee walk through the town centre, which like most has seen far better days. Inevitably there were empty shops, but they have tried to jolly things up by covering the shop fronts with these gorgeous photographs of ‘The Rock’. In fact I took the photo on my blog header from the top of this very historic rock which is a volcanic plug. Because of its strategic position at the confluence of two rivers – the Clyde and the Leven – it has been used as a fort and stronghold, and was even used by the army in WW1 and WW2. There’s a tradition (accordng to the author Rosemary Sutcliff) that the Romans had a naval station here and they called it Theodosia, which I believe means given by the gods.

Dumbarton  Rock, west Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Whenever I see this place in the distance I always feel that I’m home. I don’t know who took these photos but they are very good I think, probably the first one was taken by a drone.

Dumbarton  Rock, west Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Out of the Past by Patricia Wentworth

Out of the Past cover

Out of the Past by Patricia Wentworth was first published in 1955 and it’s a Miss Silver mystery.

James Hardwick and his wife Carmona are living in an old house on the south coast which James has inherited from an uncle. It’s an ugly place and they hope to sell it soon, but as it’s a very hot summer they have several house guests staying with them, then another one unexpectedly turns up.

Alan Field had been engaged to Carmona in the past but he had left her standing waiting for him at the altar, and she hadn’t seen him again. He obviously expects to stay at the house, but James isn’t going to allow that to happen and Alan is dispatched to a boarding house nearby.

When murder ensues there’s a plethora of suspects and Miss Silver who is having a holiday with her niece and staying at the boarding house ends up sorting it all out of course.

I really liked this one and as ever I appreciated the updates on Maud Silver’s knitting projects. She knitted a pink coatee for a baby and matching bootees, her knitting obviously helps her to relax and think through all the clues to the mysteries. What a woman!

Luss Village and Church, by Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, West Scotland

Walking around the village of Luss by Loch Lomond last week, it was difficult to get photos of the houses but I managed to take the photo below of what I think is just about the cutest cottage in the village, peeking out from behind its hedge. It’s a shy one. Or maybe the owners fear that tourists might keek in the windows, it has been known elsewhere! Those elevated parts of the roofline above the windows are known in architectural circles as ‘cat slides’ for some reason and Jack and I live in hope of seeing an actual cat slide down one. These ones are very small and not like the usual cat slide dormers.

Cat Slide Cottage, Luss, Scotland

Walking a bit further along we reached the church which was shut, a bit of a shame but maybe it’s open at the height of the tourist season. There are a few images of the inside here.

Luss Church, Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

This Church of Scotland building dates from Victorian times but there has been a place of Christian worship at the site for over 1500 years, it was formerly dedicated to Saint Kessog and has some really ancient graves in it including this Viking hogback grave below dating from around 1200.

Viking hogback stone, Luss church, Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire
You can still see the decoration on it, I think it’s just designs rather than any letters or runes.
Viking hogback stone, grave, Luss, Loch Lomond

We had planned to walk over this wooden footbridge but as we got closer we realised it was all blocked off, apparently it’s dangerous at the moment. Anyway we walked past and onto a path which bypassed it and I managed to get a photo of the church steeple in reflection, if you look closely.
Loch Lomond, Bridge,Church

Loch Lomond Bridge, Luss

near Loch Lomond, Luss, Scotland, trees

Then on back around to the village again.

Luss, from Loch Lomond,

One of the cottages is being re-roofed, not before time as it looked fairly derelict otherwise.

Luss, Loch Lomond, cottages,

I imagine that although these houses must be really quite small inside they won’t be at all cheap to buy, at least there’s no danger of anyone building in front of you and spoiling your view.
From Loch Lomond, cottages, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Loch Lomond panorama, Scotland

Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, West Scotland

Below is a stitch of a couple of photos that I took of Loch Lomond from the wooden pier at the wee village of Luss last Wednesday morning. You can see more images of Luss here. I didn’t take any photos of the houses as there were so many parked cars in the streets. The village was built by a Colquhoun to house the workers at his nearby slate quarry.

Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond panorama

The snow covered mountain that can just be seen to the left centre of the photo below is Ben Lomond, which is a ‘Munro’ meaning it’s over 3,000 feet high. It must be the most climbed mountain in Scotland, it’s an easy one to get up although as ever, if you aren’t wearing decent footwear and you aren’t properly clothed it can still be dangerous as the weather can change very quickly. I believe that some years ago a 12 year old German boy died of hypothermia on Ben Lomond, in July!

Loch Lomond, Luss, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Loch Lomond is an idyllic place but in the summer months it can be very busy with tourists as it’s such a short distance from Glasgow, this area is often called Glasgow’s playground. When I was growing up I was lucky enough to live within a few miles of the loch so it was an easy walk in good weather anyway. But this part of Scotland is still incredibly well served with local transport links – buses and trains are very frequent. I took this completely for granted as a youngster and only realised how unusual it was when I moved away and discovered that some towns only have one bus a week – and to nowhere that you would want to go – what a shock that was!
Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

There are a lot of small islands dotted around the loch. In the summer visitors are sometimes tempted to swim out to them, probably not realising that they are further away than they thought – not all of them make it there!

Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

One of the islands – Inchconnachan – is home to a population of wallabies, you can read about them here. They were introduced there in the 1940s and are controversial now as they are a non-native species and apparently are a threat to the native capercaillies.

Loch Lomond panorama, Scotland

West of Scotland book purchases

I’ve been in my beloved west of Scotland earlier in the week so that Jack could go to a football match. It’s too far to do comfortably in one day so we stayed overnight and that gave us plenty of time to visit the shops and eateries that we wanted to visit. Amazingly the weather dried up and we had bright sunshine and blue skies – so much for the weather in the west being wetter than the east!

Without even trying I ended up buying eight books, some from charity shops and the four books from Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series were from a sort of junky ‘antique’ shop. I was so pleased to get these ones that date from 1948 and still have their pristine dustjackets. They were all given to a boy called Phil in 1948 from his mother, nannie and John and Mary.

Missee Lee by Arthur Ransome
The Big Six by Arthur Ransome
Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome
Great Northern? by Arthur Ransome

Books by Arthur Ransome

Arthur Ransome Books

The Westering Sun by George Blake – because of the lovely cover and it being Scottish.
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar – a mystery to me but it was 50p so I thought I might as well buy it.

Books

And two more Scottish books.
The Flight of the Heron by D.K. Broster
The English Air by D.E. Stevenson

Books Again

It’s World Book Day today which is probably why the date was chosen for the publication of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light. I dashed to W.H. Smith’s this morning to get my copy of it but annoyingly had to go out tonight so have only managed to get to page 43 so far. Of course it’s not going to be easy to read in bed as it’s so weighty. I suspect that I’ll be reading most of tomorrow!

Oh – and Jack’s team (Dumbarton) won their football match. Sometimes being away from home for one night only is just perfect as you can have one whole day of doing exactly what you want, and you’re only away from your own bed for one night. We visited Helensburgh and the Loch Lomond area and I managed to get some scenic photos which I’ll show you soonish.

Greenery Street by Denis Mackail

Greenery Street cover

Greenery Street by Denis Mackail was first published in 1925 but I read a Persephone reprint. I’ve been meaning to get around to reading this one for years and years as everyone seems to love it – and so did I. I only have one other book by him, it’s called Upside-down and I haven’t read that one yet. He was Angela Thirkell’s brother, worked as a set designer for a J.M. Barrie production and the family had lots of links to upper class English/Scottish society. The artist Edward Burne-Jones was his grandfather, and he was also related to Rudyard Kipling and Stanley Baldwin.

Greenery Street is very much an autobiographical book which tells of the first year of marriage of a young couple – Felicity and Ian Foster. Felicity’s parents had banned her from seeing Ian before they had even met him, she was their youngest daughter and Ian didn’t earn much money at his job in an insurance firm in the city. This of course only makes the young couple even more determined to see each other and Felicity’s much older sister Daphne is deployed to help the situation.

With permission to get married they set out to find a home and settle in Greenery Street, number 23 – a corner house. They love it but are very short of money and end up in a huge amount of debt to the local builder. Felicity is just useless at housekeeping and her two servants run rings around her. Ian and Felicity are both rather frightened of approaching the servants to complain of anything, even the disappearance of Ian’s five bottles of whisky!

Felicity ends up being overdrawn at the bank and Ian says:

‘Do you realise that you’ve got through the whole of your quarter’s allowance in six weeks?’

And still Felicity didn’t answer. If Ian and the man at the bank both held this extraordinary belief it seemed useless for her to argue. Horrible loathsome money, why must it come and spoil everything like this? She supposed she’d known it all along, really, only still it seemed impossible. Extravagant? It was monstrous to say she was extravagant, when she’s bought nothing for herself – absolutely nothing – since that hideous cotton frock which she’d never been able to wear.

It was all those foul tradesman, and their foul weekly books!

Of course Felicity had been gasping to buy that dress when she saw it in the shop window.

This is a lovely read, it’s funny and will remind a lot of people of what it was like to be setting up their first home, although most of us probably didn’t have such an upper class way of life.

But from what I know of such people it is really true to life. It seems that the richer people are – the less inclined they are to pay the bills of the tradesman that they use – leeching off people who have far less money. Seriously I’ve known a few people who have gone out of business because of this attitude, although to be fair Ian and Felicity’s debt is on their conscience.

However, back to the book F’licity as she is known in the family is a dippy charmer and Ian is besotted with her. The book is dedicated to Diana, the author’s wife and sadly she died in 1949. Up until then Mackail had published a book every year but he gave up writing after her death. He died in 1971.

Greenery Street was actually 23 Walpole Street, London which despite apparently being too small to accommodate a growing family has now been split up into flats, one of which sold recently for £1.49 million. The photo below is of Walpole Street although number 23 was of course a corner house so presumably was an end terrace towards the left of this photo. If you’ve read the book you’ll recognise the little balcony that Felicity sat on. Not at all bad as a starter home I’m sure you’ll agree. Coincidentally P.G. Wodehouse had also lived in this house at an earlier date.

Walpole Street

An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel

My Friends the Miss Boyds cover

I’m dying to get my hands on Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light which is published later this week but I had a look at my bookshelves and realised that I had an unread book by her so decided to knock that one off the TBR list. An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel was published in 1995 and I loved it. I’ll give it four stars on Goodreads, ideally 4.5 I think. The author is five or six years older than me but her descriptions of how things were back in the 1960s were so evocative to me, it brought back so many memories.

The time slips backwards and forwards between childhood and college.

Carmel is an only child and living in the north of England with her parents in their council house. She has an Irish Catholic background and a mother who is ambitious for her. Karina who is in her class at school has a similar background and when it comes time to go to high school they both manage to get into the equivalent of a grammar school, the Holy Redeemer. It seems they are the only girls to have got there via a council estate. Karina isn’t a friend though, she’s the girl that all the mothers hold up as a good example to their daughters. Karina is clean, such a help to her mother and such and that doesn’t endear her to her peers. There’s a something about her though, she leads a bit of a secret life which Carmel catches glimpses of as she sees her smoking with a group of rough kids.

But the time quickly moves on to the end of schooldays when Carmel gets into a particular London college – as does Karina and Julianne from the same school, and the main topic of conversation in the laundry is about who is engaged, is on the pill, pregnant, thinks they might be pregnant or has just discovered that she isn’t pregnant. Despite the fact that the young women are studying for degrees the most important thing is boyfriends and the cachet having one gives them. The food on offer at the college is dire, but nobody complains, apparently young women aren’t expected to have appetites, their boyfriends would never put up with it.

There’s a lot of comedy and tragedy in this book and I found the ending to be so unexpected, but the whole thing is so well written and observed. It would be an education to female students today to read this as I’m sure there couldn’t be more of a contrast between college girls then where everything was geared to getting married for most of them and putting men on a pedestal, and now since the advent of so-called equality of the sexes where the young women know (I hope) that their future life is as important as any man’s.

Helen Dunmore said in the blurb: ‘Hilary Mantel is a wonderfully unsurprised dissector of human motivation, and in An Experiment in Love she has written a bleak tale seamed with crackling wit.’

Balbirnie Estate, Fife

The weather has been so bad recently that we hadn’t been able to get out for our usual walks, so when a bit of dry weather came along we grabbed it although we knew it would be muddy underfoot. The weather never seems to bother the deer that live around here although they have been ranging further than normal and I know that because twice recently they’ve walked across roads as we’ve been driving along, thankfully not going very fast.

Deer, Balbirnie, Fife

The wee burn below is new, there’s normally a trickle in this area which just disappears into the ground but it’s actually flowing now but was easy just to step over.
new burn

Balbirnie path, Fife

It’s squelchy underfoot though and walking down the very steep muddy path below is nasty at the best of times. I wished I had armed myself with a stout stick, but with some nifty footwork I managed not to skite on my bahoukie!

Balbirnie path, Fife

Balbirnie snowdrops,Fife

Once at exactly this spot a fox rushed past us, coming from behind and just about brushing past me, I thought it was a dog at first, then a horribly aggressive pit bull terrier with no collar on and no owner in sight ran past me too. Those dogs must have quite a poor sense of smell because it didn’t realise that the fox had gone off the path and into bushes nearby, where I’m sure they have a den.

Balbirnie, snowdrops , Fife

Balbirnie,snowdrops, Fife

The ‘back’ burn as it is called locally is much fuller and faster than normal, as you would expect with all the rain and sleet we’ve had. Not that I’m complaining having seen on the news what other people are having to put up with.
back burn, Balbirnie, Fife

We’ve been living in this area for almost six years now and we’ve never seen it flooded like this, walking into town for the Guardian in the morning has been interesting, dodging the mini lochs and rivers that at times have reached across the road.
Balbirnie Floods, Fife

No scooting across the golf course as a bit of a short cut, as you can see it has been fairly cold too with ice on top of the floodwater.
Balbirnie floods, Fife

The flagpoles outside the Balbirnie House Hotel, which was originally the ‘big hoose’ in this area, have recently had new flags run up them. I don’t think they last too long in our windy weather. I’m just so glad to see that they are continuing to fly the Europan flag.

Balbirnie House Hotel , Fife

You’ve had quite a few virtual walks around here recently and looking at my bathroom scales it seems like I’ve been having virtual walks too. I hope you’re having more success than I am!

The Bangles – Eternal Flame

Tonight we were looking for something to watch on TV and considering it was Friday night the choice was dire, or maybe it was because it was Friday night it was dire. Anyway, we ended up watching an epsiode of Top of the Pops from 1989 and the last song was Eternal Flame by The Bangles. Music wise I don’t think 1989 was a great year but I’ve always loved this one. So I thought I’d put it on here. What do you think?

When I think of any year I always calculate how old my kids were then and in 1989 they were two and three, so that’s maybe why some of the other songs in this episode had gone straight past me. I was just too busy and too tired probably to pay much attention to what was going on in the music scene. But this one stayed with me.

It also reminded me of Gilmore Girls, I loved that programme. Rori took her friend Paris to a Bangles concert and she had never been to anything like that before – she really liked that band!

Girls in Their Married Bliss by Edna O’Brien

 Fair Helen cover

Girls in Their Married Bliss by Edna O’Brien was published in 1964 and it’s the third book in her series also comprising The Country Girls, and Girl with Green Eyes (previously The Lonely Girl) which are about two young Irish girls. This one begins with Baba giving a quick resume of her and her friend Kate’s (known as Caithleen before) life, they had been friends since childhood. Surprisingly both young women have married well-off men and are living in London. You would think that they had fallen on their feet but the title of the book is deeply sarcastic as marriage has turned out to be far from bliss for the young women.

I have to say that I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the other two books, it’s not that the writing is bad but neither Kate nor Baba seemed to mature over the years, but then if they had the book would have been very different. I just felt like giving them both a good shake a lot of the time. I found the ending to be quite depressing, but I’m glad that I completed the series. This is a very quick read at just 160 pages.