Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Glamis Castle stitch, Angus, Scotland

At last we got around to visiting Glamis Castle which was the family home of the Queen Mother. It’s still owned by the Strathmore family, they’ve been there since the 1300s. We tried to visit the castle years ago but by the time we got there it was too late go around the castle and as we walked along the driveway we were walking against a tide of people who were leaving. This time around there were very few people there which was good as when we toured the interior we had all of the rooms to ourselves as by the time someone else was entering – we were exiting. Sadly it was a bit of a grey day when we were there this time around but it didn’t detract too much from the castle, I think it looks like an illustration from a fairy tale, which is quite apt since the yougest daughter of the family ended up marrying a prince, then went on to become a queen. The castle’s name is pronounced ‘glams’.

If you’re interested in the history of the castle have a look at the timeline here. The castle has links with Macbeth and Shakespeare.

The yew hedge lined driveway below is not the main driveway, that one is flanked by fields, but we drove down it this time so I didn’t take any photos, and the last time we were there it was full of people. You might want to look at my previous post which I’m amazed to see was written nine years ago!

Glamis Castle,from east, Angus, Scotland

The view below is of the castle from the right hand side as you look at it. Sadly the old stone fountain isn’t working.

Glamis Castle and masonry, Angus, Scotland

I’ll show you the interior and also the lovely Italian garden sometime soon.

Are We Having Fun Yet? by Lucy Mangan

Are We Having Fun Yet? cover

Are We Having Fun Yet by Lucy Mangan has its moments although at the beginning it reminded me far too much of the BBC TV programme Motherhood, without the diverse group of mothers that feature in that so comically. Liz and Richard are I suppose upper middle class – as is everyone else featured, it feels very autobiographical and to be fair anyone who has had children will recognise many of the situations as Liz struggles to deal with domestic angst, her two young children, and a husband who is somewhat semi-detached and in a world of his own.

As ever with this sort of writing it’s the children who are the stars and provide a lot of the humour. As a reader of Lucy Mangan’s articles since she began writing in the Guardian I had trouble separating her personality with that of Liz as it is so similar to her columns.

I found it annoying that Liz is so frazzled by childcare when she has very supportive parents living half an hour away, and that Liz (Lucy) describes herself as being ‘northern’ despite being brought up in the south of England. Having northern parents doesn’t count, where you went to school does!

Having loved Mangan’s Bookworm I found this one to be a bit disappointing and predictable but I suspect that as a granny and an actual ‘northern’ person, if you count Scotland as the north – but so many people don’t – I’m not the target audience.

I received a digital copy of the book via NetGalley. Thank you.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

 Ballet Shoes cover

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett was first published in 1929. I loved this one although I must admit that I love the film even more, it’s the Humphrey Bogart aspect of course, he’s brilliant as Sam Spade. I suspect that everyone knows the tale.

Miss Wonderly (tall and pliantly slender without angularity anywhere) visits the office that Sam Spade shares with his partner Miles Archer. She wants Spade to track down Floyd Thursby, the man who has run off with her younger sister. Archer gets the job of tailing Thursby. It doesn’t end well for either of them.

I love Hammett’s writing style. He puts so much detail in, every movement is mapped. His books must have been a dream to adapt to film. You can see the original film trailer below.

Mail Royal by Nigel Tranter

Mail Royal cover

Mail Royal by the very prolific Scottish author Nigel Tranter was first published in 1989

Lord Gray has been Sheriff of Angus for decades but King James VI has decided to take that sinecure away from him and give the very lucrative sheriffdom to Lord Home. But Scottish sheriffdoms aren’t in the gift of the King, not that that matters because whatever King James says goes.

Lord Gray is desperate to hang on to his only means of getting money and keeping power. He knows that his father had had a hold over King James, it was something to do with secret letters, and Gray is determined to find them so he can blackmail James too. The letters are thought to have been written by Mary, Queen of Scots and must be either embarassing or dangerous for the king.

It’s young David Gray that gets the task of finding the letters. As the illegitimate son of Lord Gray’s younger deceased brother, David gets all the dirty work to do. David’s journey takes him all the way down to London and the royal court that his uncle is so careful to avoid, just in case the King decides to execute him!

I really enjoyed this one, but I’m not sure if it was because I knew every step of the way that David Gray travelled, although he was on horseback. From Broughty Ferry just north of Dundee, to Fife, Haddington, Edinburgh, Dunbar, the fishing village of Cove that we visit, the village that’s lived in by one of my sons, the border towns we know so well. I could picture it all so clearly.

The story includes a romance of course, I think all of Tranter’s books do, and it mentions a few castles that we haven’t got around to visiting – yet!

David Rizzio – his Murder and Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh

Paula was interested in finding out more about David Rizzio who was murdered in front of Mary, Queen of Scots in her private chambers at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Click the interesting link above. David Rizzio was Mary’s private secretary and also a musician, and Mary’s husband was jealous of his relationship with the queen. You can see the rooms here.

You can see an image of Sir William Allan’s painting of the scene here.

But on to something more pleasant. Here are a couple of photos I took of the gardens at the palace.

Palace of Holyroodhouse Gardens, EdinburghGardens Holyrood 2

Looking at these photos it is hard to believe that you’re in the middle of a city, albeit a small one. Below you can see what is left of some of the old abbey buildings dating from 1128 when King David I founded the abbey.These ruins are right next to the palace.

Gardens Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

Although there are more substantial ruins as you can see from the photo below. You can read about the abbey here.

Holyrood Abbey, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Scotland

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh – part 2

Here we are back at the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh again, inside this time. As you can see the bedroom below is the King’s Bedchamber which is hung with tapestries, has a wonderfuly ornate ceiling and Dutch delft tiles around the fireplace. Most of the rooms in this palace are fairly small by royal standards.

Royal Bed, Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh, Scotland

On the video guide Princess Anne explained that people often assume that it must be a horrible place to have to stay in, considering that there has been at least one murder there with Rizzio having been stabbed to death (I bet there were more murders than that one!) But she tells them that it has a nice homely atmosphere. I must admit that I have my doubts about the ‘bloodstain’ in the photo below, it look a wee bit too bright for something not far off 500 years old, but there’s no doubt that this is where the deed took place. If you’re interested in the history of the palace have a look here.

Rizzio's 'bloodstain', Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland

Sadly a lot of our photos didn’t come out well due to the dim lighting to preserve the tapestries and soft furnishings, they look blurred like the two below. Obviously you aren’t allowed to use a flash.

Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh

King's Room, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Below is a painting of King James VI.

James VI + fireplace, Holyrood House, Edinburgh

I’m sure that the dining room is used when the Queen visits this palace, usually she stays here and does some entertaining and has garden parties before continuing on to her holiday home in the Highlands – Balmoral.

Dining Table, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

Some of the paintings in the Long Gallery below were damaged after the Jacobite Rebellion, presumably by Cumberland’s troops but they’ve been well patched up. Someone called these long galleries ‘treason rooms’ as they are the only spaces where people of a treasonous nature could talk without the danger of being overheard. When ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ took possession of this palace in 1745 he held a grand ball. I think it would have been held in this room, unless there is a ballroom which is not open to the public. There’s a secret door in the panelling!

Long Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

I could have quite happily sat down to soak up the atmosphere, but I don’t think that would have gone down well with the attendants who I must mention were almost all young women and wearing wonderful kilts which looked to me to be men’s kilts, certainly they folded over on the male side anyway. Sadly I don’t have a photo of them as I don’t think that would have gone down well either.

Palace of Holyroodhouse,Tapestry , Edinburgh

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland

A couple of weeks ago we decided to visit Holyrood Palace, in Edinburgh, I had only peered at it through the railings previously. As usual it’s the places nearby that get overlooked while we concentrated on visiting far-flung places.

Holyrood Palace gates, Edinburgh, Scotland
Below is a stitch of the palace which is more correctly called the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Holy rood of course means holy cross.
Fountain, Holyrood Palace stitch
As you can see the architecture is of the Scots Baronial type which was influenced by French and Italian architecture.

entranceway Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Entrance, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland

The photo below is of the courtyard in the centre of the building, it’s a lovely green space to look out onto.
Holyrood Palace Courtyard , Edinburgh, Scotland

It all seemed quite empty at this point but when we got inside there seemed to be far too many people in the smallish rooms. I think I would even have felt that if there had not been an ongoing pandemic, some of them had obviously just come off planes! Anyway, we seem to have survived and I’ll blog about some of those rooms tomorrow!

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild was first published in 1936.

 Ballet Shoes cover

Matthew Brown is an elderly palaeontologist who spends most of his time travelling the world collecting fossils which he sends to his home in London which is run by his great-niece Sylvia and her old nanny. He manages to pick up three young girls over some time in differing circumstances, the last one being a small baby, and takes them home with him where Nana and Sylvia have the task of bringing them up.

It’s a difficult state of affairs for Sylvia as her uncle, known as GUM, leaves her some money and takes off on his travels again. As the girls (Pauline, Petrova and Posy) grow up the financial situation is very precarious as GUM stays away for years and doesn’t send any more money, for all they know he might be dead as they haven’t even had a letter from him for years.

The girls are all determined to help Sylvia and when they are enrolled in a stage and dancing school they are able to contribute to the family budget. Bizarrely it’s never mentioned that Sylvia might be able to get a job to help out!

I enjoyed this one, the character of Petrova was especially good as she was so different from the usual girls of that time, she was keen on cars and how they worked and was happiest when up to her ears in oil and car parts. Despite having little interest in the performing arts she was still keen to pull her weight and earn money for the family.

I think this is the fifth or sixth children’s book that I’ve read by Streatfeild and she does seem to have been slightly obsessed with the stage and performing. The only one of her books that I have unread in the house is Saplings, one of her books for adults, it’ll be interesting to see what that one is about. Have any of you read it?

My copy of Ballet Shoes is a modern Puffin book. Although these editions have nice clear print I must admit that I generally prefer the designs of the old Puffin books.

Two from Ian Rankin – Rebus

I’m really behind with my book thoughts and as I’ve read two books in Ian Rankin’s Rebus series recently I thought I’d just give them a quick mention.

 Set in Darkness cover

Set in Darkness was first published in 2000 and it’s the 11th book featuring DI John Rebus. The setting is of course Edinburgh where the very historic Queensberry House is undergoing refurbishment as part of the devolved Scottish Parliament administrative offices. A partially mummified body is found behind a boarded up fireplace. It looks like it has been there since the last work which was undertaken in that area, some 20 odd years ago.

Then there’s what appears to be the suicide of a homeless man, but it turns out that he had hundreds of thousands of pounds. Why was he living on the streets and did he really kill himself? It’s all go when a prospective MSP’s body is found. Somehow they’re all linked. This was a good read and as ever I enjoyed the Edinburgh setting.

 Resurrection Men cover

Resurrection Men was first published in 2021. This one ranges around Scotland from Edinburgh to Stirlingshire, Perthshire, Fife and Dundee.

Rebus has had a bit of a meltdown and thrown a cup of tea at his boss Gill Templar. The result of that is that he has been sent to Tulliallan, the Scottish police training college for a bit of a refresher course and to have some sessions with a psychologist. Rebus isn’t the only one who has been sent back to school. There’s a group of senior officers who are all there for similar reasons, but it transpires that Rebus has been asked to befriend the others as they’re suspected of being ‘right bad yins’ and Rebus needs to get the evidence. Rebus isn’t sure if he’s being set up by his superiors or if it’s for real, either way it’s a dangerous situation for him. The cold case that they’ve been given to re-open as part of their team building happens to be one in which Rebus was involved, and he’s not happy about that at all.

Meanwhile Siobhan, Rebus’ sidekick is investigating the murder of a wealthy Edinburgh art dealer who had a link with one of the prostitutes in a massage parlour, which in turn might have links with Ger Cafferty, the Mr Big of the Edinburgh dark side.

There’s a lot more to it but, you get the idea I’m sure.

I love that I know all the locations of these books so I’m not sure how much that influences my enjoyment, mind you with the bad guys in this one coming from the west of Scotland I did slightly roll my eyes!

Lily by Rose Tremain

Lily cover

Lily by Rose Tremain is subtitled A Tale of Revenge. It begins in 1850 when on a freezing cold night a young policeman Sam Trench discovers a tiny baby which has been abandoned by her mother in a park near Bethnal Green, London. He takes the baby to the nearby London Foundling Hospital, better known as Coram, a home for orphans. The babies that end up there are farmed out to people in the country until they are six years old. The couples are given ten shillings a month to bring up the children so it’s just a way of making ends meet for them. But Lily’s foster family, farmers in rural Suffolk, Nellie and Perkin Buck grow to love her. At the end of the six years the unsuspecting Lily is dragged away from Nellie, the woman she loved like a mother and who loved her too, as did Perkin and their sons, they want to keep her but aren’t allowed to.

Then begins a nightmarish existence for Lily at the hands of the cruel sisters (presumably nuns) of the Coram. No toys or fun for the children who have to work, picking okum, scrubbing, washing clothes, sewing. Lily has been taught sewing skills by Nellie, but her skills don’t help her avoid the abuse and terror of the place.

It’s a twisted form of Christianity that’s taught there, but when Lily gets work as a wigmaker when she’s old enough to leave the hospital, the fate of the girls still left behind at the orphanage haunts her.

This is a really good read, despite the fact that it is a wee bit disjointed at the beginning, and it doesn’t have chapters, something that I dislike as I like to read to the end of a chapter before putting a book down and no chapters makes it difficult to break off. Having said that, I’m hoping that there will be a sequel to this book.

This is only the second book by Tremain that I’ve read, I read Merival previously and really liked that one too.

I was sent a digital copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you. The book is due to be published on the 11th of November 2021.