One beautiful day last week we decided to visit a nearby estate garden which is open to the public. We had never been before but the address in books was given as Collessie, so we drove to that small village, a place we had never been before despite it being just a few miles from where we live. We never did find the estate garden that day as it’s actually on the rode to another village. I was enchanted by Collessie though so we spent an hour or so walking around the very historic village. Below is a photo of what had been the post office and is now someone’s home. Post Offices have been closed down all over the country which is a tragedy as they were often the hub of a village. In fact this place has no shops or anything, just a church and a community hall.
It’s like stepping back into a sort of Brigadoon. I’ve only seen a few thatched houses in Scotland, they’re much nore common in the south of England, so I was amazed to see several of them in Collessie. The village apparently has the most thatched roofs of anywhere in Scotland.
They look lovely but we have friends who lived in a thatched cottage down south and they said that as soon as the weather turned a bit cold – all of the local ‘skittering’ wildlife moved into the roof for warmth, not my idea of fun. Especially as they didn’t stay in the thatch but made forays into the house.
Of course not all of the cottages have thatched roofs, but the street below is still amazingly quaint looking. It looks like nothing has changed for a couple of hundred years.
I think that the road in the photo below must have been the main road leading to St Andrews which was of course a popular place for pilgrims to walk to in the days of the early Christian church. You can see the church beyond the thatched roof, it has been extended a lot over the years but the original part of it dates from before 1243 which is when it was consecrated by the Bishop of St Andrews.
Considering the size of the village this church is enormous. I think that over the years the population must have decreased a lot.
The village is a bit of a dead end as it has been by-passed by a larger road which is why we had never been there before, but it’s definitely worth making a detour off the main road to step back in time to Collessie. I’ll put a few more photos of it up tomorrow.
The 18th Classics Club Spin number is 9 and that means that I’ll be reading The Kill by Emile Zola before the 31st of August.
I’m very happy about this as apart from anything else my copy of The Kill only has 271 pages, very short for Zola I think, it looks like it’ll be a great read too.
This book is part of Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series and the blurb on the back says:
A great wave of redevelopment is bursting over Paris when Aristide Rougon arrives from the provinces in 1852. Fortunes are being made and lost by those with the nerve to speculate and to swindle on a grand scale. To some, Paris is disappearing in a cloud of plaster dust: All Aristide can see is a shower of gold.
I’m really looking forward to reading it now.
The cover of my copy shows a detail from the painting Foggy day near Madeleine by Jean Beraud.
I think it was the end of May when Storm Hector raged through large parts of Scotland and flattened the more delicate plants in my garden, it also destroyed the thin metal arch that we had straddling the garden path, so we decided to replace it with a more robust wooden one. The wooden posts were stuck into long metal spikes and holes were dug by Jack and Davy our brother-in-law and Davy mixed the concrete. It seems good and solid. The photo above is of Jack doing some fine tuning.
The photo below was taken a bit later when the evening sun had moved around to the front of the house. I ended up cutting back completely the everlasting sweetpea which had been covering the metal arch. It had become too fankled (tangled) to train it over the new arch and to be honest I’m not sure if I want it there now as it seems to be a bit of a bully and the stalks and leaves are very course. There are a couple of climbing roses and a honeysuckle at the arch now and I think that will be enough.
A week or so of decent weather makes all the difference especially after such a slow start to the growing season as the one we had this year was. The pink rose was one of my birthday plants, I think it’s called Awakening and although all of its original blooms have gone it’s now happily producing a second flush.
There’s a handy piece of ground behind the shed and that’s where I’ve been storing all of the turf that I’ve been cutting up ever since we moved here over four years ago now (I can hardly believe it’s that long). I realised that foxgloves had seeded themslves on top of the turf and attempts to move them to a more scenic location culminated in the death of a few of them as the roots were too firmly embedded – so I just left the rest of them to get on with it. They’re very happy there.
I took the photo below from the top of the ladders, as you can see that bed to the left of the wooden arch is becoming quite congested, but everything seems to be growing well for the moment. I might have to move some things next year though.
The other garden project that I’ve completed this year is the area around the old sink planter. The old rosemary tiles that I’ve used as edgers are doing the job I wanted them to and stopping the grass from encroaching into the slate.
Of course the garden looks quite different now as it didn’t rain for weeks and weeks after I took these photos. The grass turned yellow, but the clover stayed nice and green and as usual was very popular with the bees. Most of the plants have coped well with our unusually hot and dry weather but I hadn’t realised that the down side to hot dry summers is that the flowers don’t last nearly as long as they do when the weather is cooler. Not that I’m complaining – well I might be – just a wee bit!
If This is a Man by Primo Levi was first published in 1958 and I’ve been meaning to read it for years, but to be honest I’ve been avoiding anything like this that I thought might just be too grim a read. My mother was like many of her generation who were teenagers when the war began – obsessed by the war, obviously it was the biggest event in her life and she never really moved on from it. It’s no exaggeration to say that every conversation she had ended up back at the war somehow. I wasn’t told fairy tales as a youngster but was told of war atrocities instead! Honestly it’s surprising that I grew up so ‘normal’.
Anyway, If This is a Man turned out to be not as harrowing a read as I thought it might be. This is mainly because as a chemist Primo Levi was regarded as being a useful prisoner. His expertise was needed to help with the manufacture of synthetic rubber for the German war effort. But before that could happen he and others had to build the factory within Auschwitz.
Poor diet, freezing conditions and the heavy work involved whittled the men down over time and those who hadn’t been selected for instant departure through the crematorium chimneys often ended up there anyway.
Eventually the Russian army broke through the German defences and the Nazis fled, taking 20,000 prisoners with them. Luckily Primo Levi was ill and in the hospital at that time so he was left behind. Most of the 20,000 prisoners disappeared as they died of exhaustion during a forced march away from the advancing Russian army. He was one of only three survivors from the original 650 prisoners who had been taken to Auschwitz from his area.
The Truce is a sequel which was written in 1963 and in it Primo Levi tells of what happened to him after the Russians reached Auschwitz. I had always hoped that any camp survivors would have been cossetted by the allies and their problems would have been over but of course, advancing allies didn’t have the wherewithal to deal with them. It wasn’t possible for prisoners just to make their own way home. Another long march was the upshot with the only real difference being that they actually got fed this time. Truce is interesting though as Levi met so many interesting characters amongst the other survivors.
Another reason why I was put off from reading Primo Levi was that I had been under the impression that he had committed suicide in 1987 and that seemed unutterrably sad given what he had experienced, however it seems that many people believe that his death was an accident as he had been suffering from dizzy spells and he had lots of projects on the go at the time.
It’s spin time again at the Classics Club and the number will be chosen on Wednesday the 1st of August, I’ll have to read it by the 31st of August. I’ve fairly recently had to compile my second classics list as I completed the original one a while ago, so here are twenty from the newish list, I don’t mind which number comes up.
1. The Earth by Emile Zola
2. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
3. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
4. The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison
5. Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant
6. Salem Chapel by Margaret Oliphant
7. Doctor Dolittle and the Green Parrot by Hugh Lofting
8. End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
9. The Kill by Emile Zola
10. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
11. The Trial by Franz Kafka
12. The Beast in Man by Emile Zola
13. The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov
14. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
15. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
16. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
17. Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Laclos
19. High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
20. Is He Popenjoy? by Anthony Trollope
Orkneyinga Saga – The History of the Earls of Orkney was written around the year 1200 by an Icelandic man and was translated by Hermann Palsson.
It’s a window into the life and times of those who lived in the most northerly area of what is now the British Isles, but was then a Viking culture. There’s a lot of fighting, feuding and feasting and also a lot of travelling about, sailing between all of the islands and as far down south as England, and back and forth to Norway.
This is an interesting read and I imagine that for people who have written historical novels set around this time then it would have been a rich source of tales to buff up, pad out and turn into entertaining tales for a more modern reader.
Again, I’m really glad that we went to the Orkney Islands last year and ran around for a week visiting all of the many places mentioned in these sagas. It was only comparatively recently that Orkney and Shetland became part of Scotland, until 1472 they were ruled by Norway and Denmark, but then became Scottish possessions as security for an unpaid dowry of Margaret of Denmark when she married King James III of Scotland.
If you’re interested in seeing the places we visited have a look at these previous blogposts.
It’s ages since I posted any photos of my garden, these photos were all taken in early May. It was such a slow, late spring and it seemed that the place would never green up, but it did eventually as you can see.
But now nearly three months since then the garden is looking much fuller, although after the very hot dry weather we’ve been having it’s only the clover in the grass that is keeping it looking green as the actual grass is yellow/brown. Below is heather, a type of sorbus, a small rhus and a silver birch. I must admit that I’ve planted a lot of things too closely together in my impatience to have something that looks like a garden quickly. I’ll have to move some things before much longer.
The metal archway in the photo below has blown down several times in the strong winds that we get and Storm Hector turned up a couple of weeks after the photo was taken and flattened a lot of the garden as well as wrecking the arch completely, so we’ve since erected a much stronger wooden one. The garden is so different now though as the hot weather made everything explode into growth.
The photo below was taken from the guest bedroom window.
The photo below is of an ornamental quince, I have two others, one white and the other apricot. The ‘bug hotel’ in the photo has been completely ignored by all bugs as far as I can see.
The Princess Irene tulips lasted quite a long time, I presume they were named after a Dutch princess given that they’re a gorgeous vibrant shade of orange – the Dutch royal colour.
The rockery below is even more congested looking now. my hope is for most of the garden to be covered with plants, hoping that there will be fewer weeds to deal with if there’s no bare soil for them to get a hold in.
Below is a photo which I took in mid June and the warmer weather has worked wonders for the growth of everything. The cat seems to have adopted our garden – mainly to snooze in. The raised bed on the left has a lot of strawberry plants in it and we’ve had a real glut this year. I never thought I’d get fed up with strawberries – but I did and I ended up making jam with some of them.
He’s known as Big Hairy Cat to us, but he lives in a house not far from us, although I suspect he’s trying to move to a home which has no dogs and children to contend with! I’m not encouraging him though.
Yesterday I went to the library to take back the Elly Griffiths book that I’ve just finished, I still had a couple of weeks before it was due up, but I noticed that somebody had requested it so I knew they would be glad to get their hands on it as soon as possible.
However, the librarian triumphantly presented me with four books that I had requested. Why is it that they all arrive at the same time? I’m supposed to be concentrating on reading my own books too! I really shouldn’t complain I suppose, especially as two of the books were recently recommended by bloggers that I trust.
Rosabelle Shaw by D.E. Stevenson
The English Air by D.E. Stevenson
The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor
The Poison Bed by E.C. Fremantle
The D.E. Stevensons had to be dug out of Fife’s Reserve Stock and they’re quite ancient but I’m working my way through all of her books, some of which could be described as comfort reads but often have stories revolving around families, and we all know that families can be problematical, and others deal with wartime problems. Rosabelle Shaw is a historical novel and so far I’m enjoying it. At least I’ll be able to renew those ones if I don’t manage to get them all read on time.
Broch of Gurness in Orkney is one of the many sites that we visited when we were there in June 2017. When we went there early one morning the man in charge of the place was just about to shut it and go home as he didn’t think that anyone would brave the terrible weather, it was a howling gale. I’m really glad that we experienced it like that though as as soon as we got into the shelter of the broch it was so calm and quiet, and we had the place to ourselves.
Jack has done a couple of posts about it and if you’re interested in seeing more photos of the place have a look here and here.
The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths was published in 2016 and it’s a Dr Ruth Galloway mystery.
The setting for this one is mainly Walsingham in Norfolk, a place of Roman Catholic pilgrimage. Ruth’s friend Cathbad is house-sitting in Walsingham for a friend who owns a cat and has gone on holiday. Of course Cathbad – a druid – likes to think that he is very attuned to ‘atmosphere’ and he isn’t comfortable in Walsingham and particularly the cottage he’s living in temporarily.
Cathbad thinks he may have seen a vision of the virgin Mary as he has seen a woman dressed in a blue cloak, but when a woman’s body turns up the next morning he realises that she was the woman he saw.
Ruth becomes involved in this one when an old university friend contacts her. Her friend is now a female priest and she has been getting nasty letters from someone who objects to the existence of women priests.
This was a really good read with the relationships between the main characters becoming even more painful, and more realistic I think.