This is Edinburgh by Miroslav Sasek

This is Edinburgh cover

This is Edinburgh by Miroslav Sasek was first published in 1961 but my copy is a 2006 reprint. I swithered about buying this one, I already have so many books for children but the illustrations are so charming and as I flicked through it I saw the iconic Jenner’s department store building – that swayed me to definitely buy it. I’ve been told that Jenner’s is going to be shut as a store and converted into posh apartments, so it’ll be nice to have it still as it was within the covers of this book.

This is a lovely volume which features many of the places that tourists want to see when they visit the city – Edinburgh Castle, St Giles’ Cathedral, Greyfriars Bobby and Holyrood Palace, but also the more out of the way places such as Dean Village, which I love. The famous penguin parade at the zoo is depicted, although since the pandas took up residence the penguins haven’t been the main attraction that they once were, much to their chagrin, but they started getting their own back by aiming their poo at the waiting visitors!

From The Times, 2011: Penguin poo hits the fans in panda queue


They arrived at their new home in a police cavalcade, having touched down in a private jet, so it was perhaps inevitable that the UK’s only pair of giant panda would ruffle the feathers of their neighbours at Edinburgh Zoo.

According to keepers, the penguins who live upstairs may be suffering from “monochrome jealousy” of Tian Tian and Yang Guang. Eschewing traditional housewarming gifts, the rockhopper penguins are targeting the visitors queueing up to see the pair with droppings.

There is a news video from 2011 about the jealous penguins here.

Of course the pandas don’t feature in this book as it dates back to 1961 with just a few wee updates at the back of the book.

You can see a lot of the illustrations in this book here.

The author first wrote This is New York and This is London before turning to Edinburgh. It’s a children’s book to be enjoyed by all ages.

Peterborough, Cambridgshire, England

It’s over a year since we visited Peterborough in the English county of Cambridgshire. We were on one of our road trips and hadn’t ever been there before, but we had wanted to visit the massive antiques fair that they have in Peterborough for ages. Actually it’s held on a Froday and Saturday unusually, and if we had stuck to our original plan and gone there on the Sunday we would have been very disappointed. As it was we didn’t have much time to look around the city, but we did take some photos of the outside of the large cathedral we were too late to get inside. It was a golden evening in September when we got there. The cathedral has a very interesting history, you can read about it here. Mary, Queen of Scots was originally buried in the cathedral but when her son King James V succeeded to the throne on Queen Elizabeth’s death he had his mother’s body exhumed and re-buried at Westminster Abbey.

Peterborough Cathedral

You can see more images of the cathedral here.

The Norman Arch below is well used as you can see, I believe a car crashed into it a few years ago though.
Norman Arch, Peterborough

But I was fairly amused ot see that the local Pizza Express is housed in a Tudoresque building. I wonder what sorts of businesses these premises have hosted over the centuries. I wouldn’t like to have their insurance bill!

Peterborough Building

I’m hoping to go back to the fair sometime this year and will definitely make sure that we see inside the cathedral then.

Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome

Peter Duck cover

Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome is the third book in his Swallows and Amazons series, it was first published in 1932. This one seems to be very difficult to find in second-hand bookshops and a good friend of mine ended up buying me a new copy of it.

Peter Duck is an old sailor, commonly known as an old salt, he lives in Lowestoft and is spending his time at the harbour watching everything that’s going on and wishing he could go out to sea again while fearing that he never will. He has sailed all around the world in clippers with wool and tea, but his sailing in recent years has been limited to going up and down the local rivers with potatoes and coal.

When he realises that one of the ships in the harbour is on the serious business of stocking up on food, water and everything from the chandlers that they could possibly need for a long voyage he’s very interested. The Wild Cat is a schooner which is going to be crewed by Captain Flint alias Uncle Jim and the children of Swallows and Amazons fame – Nancy, Peggy, Titty, Susan, Roger and John, accompanied by Polly the parrot and Gibber the monkey.

When another adult crew member is unable to join them at the last minute Peter Duck steps in to fill the void. He’s thrilled to have the chance of getting on the high seas again.

But there’s another very smart schooner in the harbour and the captain – Black Jake – has been watching everything that has been going on. He’s an obvious baddy and after hearing Peter Duck telling a tale of his childhood experience of seeing treasure buried on a remote island he’s been determined to find it. So when the Wild Cat sails out of the harbour she’s closely shadowed by Black Jake’s schooner Viper. That schooner is crewed by ex-convicts, a violent bunch of desperadoes.

The Wild Cat heads for Peter Duck’s Caribbean island, named Crab Island by him, by way of the Bay of Biscay through heavy seas, and eventually manages to shake off the Viper. At one point the two ships had been so close that it looked like the crew of the Viper would be able to board the Wild Cat. The young red-headed lad called Bill who had been on the Viper manages to escape from it and is helped onto the Wild Cat by the Swallows and Amazons. He has led a dog’s life on the Viper being frequently whipped, but he’s a knowledgeable sailor and a great help aboard the Wild Cat.

This book is really an updated (for 1932) version of a classic tale of piracy, the children have a lot to learn about real sailing, not just rowing around on a lake. It’s a good old adventurous romp with some danger thrown in – just what I was needing really.

Oakham, Rutland part 2

It was late on in a September evening when we had a look at Oakham Castle in Rutland. I must admit that I wouldn’t even have recognised the building above as being a castle, it’s very tame compared with Scottish castles. I thought it was some sort of ecclesiastical building. Apparently it’s a Norman Hall and was built betweem 1180 and 1190. You can read about its history here. Of course it was shut when we got there, but I have seen it on TV.

Oakham Castle, Rutland

Another unusual building in the town is the house which was lived in by the smallest man in Rutland – the smallest county in England. You can read about him here and here. He was a dwarf at the court of Queen Henrietta Maria

Jeffery Hudson Cottage,Thatch 2

The blue plaque on his house doesn’t give you much of an idea of the amazing life that this small man led.

smallest man, Hudson's Cottage

Still Glides the Stream by D.E. Stevenson

Still Glides the Stream cover

Still Glides the Stream by the Scottish author D.E. Stevenson was first published in 1959 but my paperback copy is a 1973 reprint.

To begin with the setting is the Scottish Borders where Will Hastie has returned to his childhood home after being away for twelve years. His return is tinged by sadness as Rae his childhood best friend was killed in World War 2 and everywhere Will goes brings back memories for him and makes Rae’s absence all the more sharp.

To make matters worse Rae’s mother is suffering from some form of dementia and she keeps expecting Rae to turn up at any time, she’s constantly talking about him. Rae’s father is a retired colonel and his family home is entailed so he’s obviously worrying about what will happen to his wife and Patty his daughter when he dies as the house and land will then be owned by a cousin.

Like many elderly parents the colonel is keen to see Patty settled so that he doesn’t have to worry about her being left on her own and homeless when he dies, but his anxiety might be leading him and Patty in an unwise direction.

Will begins to feel left out of things and decides to take a walking holiday in France, in the area where Rae had been killed, hoping to track down the farmer that Rae had been billeted with and possibly get some information from him. Rae’s last letter had been rather cryptic.

This was a really enjoyable read and I particularly liked the settings of rural Scotland and the more exotic ambience of the south of France. D.E. Stevenson often gets in a wee nod to her more famous relative Robert Louis Stevenson and she has Will saying that he isn’t travelling with a donkey.

On the back The Bookman says: “Hypnotically readable.”
and from Books and Bookmen Skillfully blends love of people and love of the countryside.”

What do you think of the 1973 cover of this book? I think it’s ghastly, that era must have been a particularly low point for book covers I think.

Oakham in Rutland

The wee town of Oakham which is the largest in the tiny county of Rutland in England’s East Midlands was in the news a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me that I had never got around to blogging about our visit there last year.

On the news many of the Oakham inhabitants were up in arms about the threat of a McDonalds opening there. Quite understandably really as they didn’t want the quaint old buildings there and the ambience being tainted by the modern plastic golden M that inevitably comes with a branch of McDonalds. It turned out though that the plan was for the outlet to be on the way out of Oakham, so in the end the permission was given. I was thinking to myself that the town has a Wotherspoons in the middle of it, which is hardly upmarket, but not quite as ‘in your face’ as a McDonalds.

Anyway, I dug through the photo files and this is the result. Some of these cottages definitely wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Midsomer Murders.

Oakham , thatched cottage,Rutland

There’s a market twice a week in the town, it’s held near the ancient octagonal pyramidal Buttercross which still has stocks in it as ypou can see below.

Oakham, Buttercross, Rutland

Oakham,thatched cottage, Rutland

I have to say though that the satellite dish attached to a thatched cottage below is almost as incongruous as a McDonalds sign, but people must have their telly choices I suppose.

Thatched House, Oakham, Rutland

The town was ‘en fete’ as you can see from the bunting in the photos below. It’s an undeniably quaint place and I can see why they want to keep it that way in town.

Oakham, Rutland

Oakham, Rutland

On the other hand there’s nowhere for younger people to go to meet friends by the look of it, it might be just a wee bit snooty! Well there is a castle there, but that’s for another blogpost. Meanwhile, those thatched cottages are all very well, but I know for a fact that you have to share them with a lot of small mammals – and some not so small come the cold weather. So my choice would be to live in a converted signal box just like the one below. I love them, it’s a shame this one is still in use as a signal box. Just imagine, you could get the housework over and done with in no time flat!

Oakham , signal box, Rutland

A winter walk in Fife

Early on in December I was really happy to see that winter had appeared, not that I particularly relish the cold weather, but I do like to get out for a good walk every day and I was really fed up with ploughing through mud and skidding on it after all the rain we had been having.

Another Wintry Path

Anyway, when you’ve been out in the chilly air for five or ten minutes it no longer feels that bad, and it’s just such a lovely change to be out in the bright day instead of in the damp dreich greyness that seemed to have been our weather for days and days.

Frosty Leaves

Winter Leaves

Of course I had forgotten my camera, but luckily had my phone, that’s why it has taken me so long to get around to showing you these photos though as I had forgotten about them.

Winter Walk

The paths around Balbirnie lead through what was a grand Victorian estate with specialist rhododendron bushes, many of which are now tall trees, but a modern golf course has been built in part of it so the landscape swings from natural beauty to ultra manicured fairways as you can see from the photo above of the frozen water hazard.

Winter Path

The woodland is managed in what I hope is a fairly environmentally healthy way. Fallen trees and limbs tend to be left more or less where they fall so that they can continue to be of use to the beasties that inhabit them and will eventually nurture the land again.

Sadly this wasn’t really the beginning of our winter weather, since then we’ve only had a few days of frosty weather which thawed out quickly and we’ve been back to dodging puddles and boggy ground. I bet our coldest weather appears over the Easter weekend! Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed stretching your legs in this winter walk in Fife.

Frosted Tree Trunk

Hide My Eyes by Margery Allingham

Hide My Eyes cover

Hide My Eyes by Margery Allingham was first published in 1958 and the title in the US is Tether’s End or Ten Were Missing.

After trudging through this book I’m left wondering – Was it me – or was it the book? For me Allingham’s books can be quite curate’s eggish – in other words good in parts. Everyone seems to really rate this one and I just didn’t like it much at all. It’s supposedly one of her Albert Campion books but he’s even more shadowy than usual in this book. The best I can say of it is that it’s atmospheric of 1950s London.

There’s a serial killer around and Campion has been asked to help out with the investigation.

What annoyed me more than anything was the copious references to the actual serial killer John Haigh who operated during the 1940s as the murderer was copying his methods – hardly innovative! I’m left thinking that Allingham knew she would be likely to be criticised for using the same modus operandi as John Haigh so decided the best thing to do would be completely up front and open about it.

I read two duff books in a row, this one and The Rider of the White Horse – things can only get better – I hope.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon illustrated by Kay Nielsen

East of the Sun and West of the Moon cover

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.

Duke of Wellington in Glasgow

Wellington

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.