Shifting Vistas, City Art Centre, Edinburgh

Last month we visted the City Art Centre in Edinburgh to see their Shifting Vistas exhibition, 250 years of Scottish landscape. It’s on until the 2nd of June 2024.

Gillies

The painting above is called Threatening Storm, it’s by the Scottish artist Sir William Gillies. I took just a few photos of some of my favourites.

Gillies blurb

A Late Snowfall, Galloway by Charles Oppenheimer.

Kirkcudbright blurb

Kirkcudbright, Charles Oppenheimr, A Late Snowfall,

A Corrie in Argyllshire

Loch Leven,Glencoe Info

 

Loch Leven,Glencoe

 

Temple info, Scottish art

When I saw Street in Temple (a village in Midlothian, near Edinburgh) I at first felt that it was a place that I know, but I’ve never been to Temple, it’s just so typically Scottish, it could be in almost any old town or village.

Street in Temple, Sir William Gillies

The City Art Centre is situated behind  Waverley Station, it’s usually well worth a visit, whatever is on. Entry is free. And it has a good cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destroying Angel by S.G. MacLean

Destroying Angel by the Scottish author S.G. MacLean was published in 2018 and it’s the third book in the author’s Captain Damian Seeker series.

At the end of the previous book The Black Friar Seeker had been sent to Yorkshire. He’s been banished from London and he isn’t happy about it. When he travels to the village of Faithly on the moors to let the inhabitants know of the most recent anti-Royalist laws, the place is far from its usual quiet backwater. The Trier has been summoned by Abel Sharrock, the gravedigger, but with the advent of the Cromwell era he is also the village Constable and so it was he who had summoned the Trier, to question the local preacher and schoolteacher the Reverend Jenkin. The villagers have no hope that Jenkin will be seen as being innocent of whatever he is supposed to have done.

Bess is a widow and she knows her pub is going to be very busy with people coming to the village for the trial, but she also has to cater for ten dinner guests the night before it, her young ward Gwendolen will help her. Although she’s just young, Gwendolen is the local herbalist and Bess always worries about her being accused of witchcraft, especially with the Trier being so nearby, and the village having more than its fair share of jealous gossips.

Seeker is kept even busier than usual as he’s also supposed to be looking for a man from a local family who hasn’t been seen for four years, but when the Trier and his wife arrive he’s astonished, they’re from his past and he has been looking for them for years.

The blurb on the front of the book says: ‘One of the best writers of historical crime … a fascinatingly flawed hero.’

I don’t know if it was because the action moved out of London and into rural Yorkshire, but I enjoyed this one even more than the previous two in this series which I’m binge reading now because the local lovely librarian ordered them all in for me and I noticed that this one now has two reserves on it.

However, one detail did strike me as being unlikely.

‘Grenade in there, is there? asked Seeker.

‘Of sorts, Captain. And once the pin is out I’d rather be in Mr Thurloe’s camp than the other.’

Some research online came up with this about the history of grenades. Pins on grenades are a very modern invention, they didn’t even exist in World War 1.

 

 

 

 

The Black Friar by S.G. MacLean

The Black Friar by S.G. MacLean was published in 2016 and it’s the second book in the author’s Damian Seeker series which begins with The Seeker.

The date is January 1655, the seventh year of Oliver Cromwell’s ‘reign’ and the people are discontented because for ordinary folks things are no better than they had been under the rule of the Stuarts. Seeker is having to deal with rebellious Royalist plots from abroad and disgruntled one time supporters of Cromwell.

Fanatical religious sects are springing up, most of them are based on the book of Daniel and they’re all more than a bit strange. It seems like desperation to me, but it is all very authentic and historically correct.

When a perfectly preserved body in the clothing of a Dominican friar is found to have been bricked up in the crumbling Blackfriars Monastery some people think it’s some kind of miracle, but Damian Seeker knows better. He recognises the body as  a man who had been working for him, and the reason the victim’s body is still fairly fresh is because he hasn’t been dead long, so it’s no miracle.

Some children have been disappearing from the streets of London, is it something to do with the murdered man? As Captain of Cromwell’s Guard Damian Seeker is kept very busy in this one, he’s well able to see that most of the ordinary people are actually worse off under Cromwell, or certainly no better off.

Shona (S.G.) MacLean has a PhD in 16th and 17th century history so presumably she gets the details correct. It’s interesting to see that women could have a prominent/ leading position as preachers in religious sects, something that seems to have gone backwards in more recent times.  If I’m nit-picking I find it unlikely that so many poorer women in these books are able to read and write, but often it’s necessary for the plot so I’m willing to suspend my disbelief.  I’m really enjoying this series and I think I’m learning quite a lot about the era.

 

 

 

 

Do Ho Suh, Tracing Time, Modern One, Edinburgh

I hadn’t even heard of the Korean artist Do Ho Suh when I saw the posters advertising his Tracing Time exhibition at Modern One in Edinburgh, and I must admit that the artwork on the poster didn’t really enthrall me, so I was agreeably surprised when we went along to view the exhibition – and I was quite impressed.

Do Ho Suh, Modern One, Edinburgh, Art

He obviously has a thing about homes/houses. He grew up in an old house, unlike his schoolmates.

Do Ho Suh, Modern One, Edinburgh, Art

The gallery’s website says, ‘The exhibition presents the artist’s complex and compelling thread drawings – in which cotton thread is embedded in handmade paper – alongside architectural rubbings, paper sculptures, cyanotypes, printmaking and watercolours.’

However, I think that the artist draws his designs and the sends them to someone else to transfer the drawing into a much bigger artwork,, and they embed the cotton thread into special paper, although looking closely I thought some of the thread had been machine stitched on.  It all looks very delicate.

Do Ho Suh , Do Ho Suh, Modern One, Edinburgh, Art

I know I’m too nit-picking about artists as even hundreds of years ago the famous ones were employing apprentices to do a lot of the work which was then passed off as Rembrandt’s or whoever. Damien Hirst seems to do very little of the dirty work himself if any. I can’t say that I really understand it because if I were them I would want to feel that sense of achievement from creating something myself.

Do Ho Suh , Modern One, Edinburgh, Art

 

Do Ho Suh , Modern One, Edinburgh, Art

The photo below is of the ‘house’  which appeared on the promotional poster which I saw, you can walk through the structure which has been created from what looks like knitted/woven nylon mesh, complete with the door, 3-D door handle shapes and including other fixtures in a home such as an electrical socket and a fire alarm. You have to leave any bags you might be carrying outside the structure, so that there is no danger of you snagging anything on the fabric. I think it would be just like a pair of tights if you did do that, but then most homes do have a ladder in them somewhere!

Do Ho Suh , Modern One, Edinburgh, Art

The exhibition is on until 1st September.

Forest Silver by E.M. Ward – British Library

Forest Silver by E.M. Ward (Edith Marjorie) was first published in 1941 but it has just been reprinted by British Library as part of their British Library Women Writers series. I was sent a copy of the book by British Library for review.

The setting for the book is the Lake District, around the Grasmere area, quite early on in World War 2. The area has a lot of new people in it now as the bombing in cities has led to people looking for a safer place to live. But Wing-Commander Richard Blunt is there because he has been invalided out of the R.A.F. He had been badly wounded in an incident which had gained him the Victoria Cross, but had been left with a weak heart and a limp after his convalesence. He immerses himself in the history of the estate.

Corys de Bainriggs is now the owner of her family estate since the death of her grandfather. He had decided to skip a generation when writing his will, presumably he didn’t trust his daughter and wife with the running of the estate. Bonfire Hall is the name of the ‘big house’ and Corys loves every bit of the land surrounding it. She has been offered a lot of money by two of the new inhabitants, they each want a plot of her land to build a house on, but she’s determined to see off all such temptations. But when one of the old houses is burnt down the old man who had lived in it takes to sleeping outdoors Corys is so worried about him she makes a decision she comes to regret bitterly.

This is a great read, I hadn’t even heard of E.M. Ward before being sent this book. Her writing is lovely, she obviously loved the Lake District deeply, but her prose just lands on the right side of being purple. Corys is a bit of a tomboy, she’s described as being a bit immature because she wears shorts and doesn’t care about her looks, she even has brown skin at a time when having a tan wasn’t fashionable. When Corys rather fancies the looks of one of the male evacuees she begins to smarten up her appearance to try to attract his attention, she’s copying the behaviour of some of the young female evacuees, it all makes her seem authentic. An ungrateful old man is particularly recognisable.

Luckily I do know the Grasmere area, and for me that always adds to the enjoyment of a book, when I can see the landscape.

Thank you to British Library for providing me with a copy of the book. I hope that some more of her novels will be reprinted in the future.

 

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

It really felt like spring was on its way when I visited the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh on Saturday. It was busy, maybe the sun had brought people out, but there were quite a lot of tourists around who would have been there whatever the weather I suppose, they were mainly American and German I think. Entry to the Botanics is free, which seemed to puzzle some people, but they do recommend a donation of £3.

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

It seems to me that the gardens are quite sheltered, which could explain the early flowering of some of the rhododendrons, but there are still many that haven’t bloomed, I think I’ll visit again in a couple of weeks. The daffodils at the east gate will be over by then though, I think I saw them at their peak on Saturday.

Royal Garden,Botanics ,Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

My favourite area is the rock garden, in recent times it has been tweaked so that there is some wheelchair access but in general most of the paths are made up of stone steps.

Rock Garden, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

There’s a burn/stream rushing through the rock garden which begins with a small but powerful waterfall.

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

As you wouldexpect there are some great trees in the garden.

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburghs

From some parts of the botanics you can see the spires and roofs of some of the buildings in central Edinburgh, not too far away, but the photo I took was too blurry.

While I was there Jack was at a football match nearby, Dumbarton beat Spartans 6-2 (it’s not like them) so a good day was had by all.

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore was first published in 2017. It says on the cover ‘The finest novel Dunmore has written.’ Sadly it was also the last one she wrote as she discovered as she was editing the book that she was seriously ill.

The setting is Bristol around the time of the French Revolution. Lizzie Fawkes is a young married woman, her husband John Diner Tredevant is a property developer, he had been married before, to a French woman who had died while visiting France. Lizzie’s mother Julia hadn’t ever really warmed to her son-in-law, but Lizzie had never much liked her step-father Augustus, and she likes him even less when she discovers that her mother is pregnant, at her age it seems far too dangerous.

Julia is well known in Radical circles as she’s a writer of speeches and pamphlets, it’s a dangerous occupation though as the British government is naturally worried about revolutionary acts spreading from France.

There had been a housing boom in Bristol, until the trouble in France makes everybody jittery, they know that war with France is likely, and nobody is interested in buying new houses. Lizzie’s husband is going to be in deep financial trouble, but he’s already causing trouble for Lizzie as he becomes more and more controlling.

This was a great read.

The Guardian review said: ‘A blend of beauty and horror evoked with such breathtaking poetry that it haunts me still.’

Toby’s Room by Pat Barker

Toby’s Room by Pat Barker was published in 2012, but the book begins in 1912 at the affluent home of Toby and Elinor, a very (too) close brother and sister. They have an older sister Rachel, she’s the one who has done everything that her parents expected of her. Elinor has a difficult relationship with her rather self-centred mother, but she does manage to get to the Slade Art School, where she also studies human dissection to help with her drawing of the human body. This is all very ground-breaking for a young woman. She also rubs shoulders with some of the people in the Bloomsbury Group as well as men who became War Artists.

When World War I breaks out Toby joins up, he is of course an officer, but it seems that he doesn’t treat the men underneath him well, he risks their lives in unnecessary tasks, and lends them out to other units when what they really need is a rest. In 1917 when his family gets a telegram saying he is Missing, Believed Killed his mother is bereft, but Elinor can’t believe it, she has to get to the bottom of it.

Pat Barker never disappoints. I’m usually not a fan of writers who use actual people as characters in their books but with small name changes for some of them and no changes for others such as Rupert Brooke who was already dead by that time, I didn’t find it offensive at all for Barker to use them in her tale.

If you want to read the review of this book in The Independent you can do so here.

 

Somebody at the Door by Raymond Postgate

Somebody at the Door by Raymond Postgate was first published in 1943 but British Library has reprinted it in 2017 in their Crime Classics series. He also founded The Good Food Guide.

The setting is the south of England, Winter 1942.

Councillor Grayling gets on the train at Euston, it’s a really busy train and his carriage is full, some of the people he knows, but doesn’t particularly like. He has £120 in his briefcase and he’s a bit worried about carrying so much money. When he gets off the train he walks the short distance from the station to his home, through the snow covered streets, but when he reaches his home he falls through the door as his wife answers it, in no time he’s dead. His briefcase is missing.

Inspector Holly investigates, looking into the backgrounds of all Grayling’s fellow passengers, apart from two young workmen who can’t be traced. It seems a lot of them have good reasons for not liking Grayling.

For this reason the story seems to go off at strange tangents, but it all makes sense eventually and I didn’t guess what was going on.

Raymond Postgate was the father of Oliver Postgate, who created Bagpuss, The Clangers, Noggin the Nog, and Ivor the Engine. Not many people remember Noggin the Nog, it was before my time on children’s TV but it’s a favourite with Jack. Peter Firmin was also involved in making that one. I was more of a Bagpuss fan. Sorry, that’s me going off at a tangent now.

 

 

The Lie by Helen Dunmore

The Lie by Helen Dunmore was published in 2014.

The setting is Cornwall 1920, but the story often slips back to the World War 1 experiences of Daniel and  Frederick, and their childhood together.  Frederick and his sister Felicia are the children of a man who had made money in Australian mines, as Daniel’s mother had been the cleaner for the family she had become close to their mother, when the mother died Daniel’s mother helped with bringing up the children.  But Frederick and Felicia go to private schools, Frederick isn’t interested in learning. It’s Daniel who is the clever one, but he knows he’s never going to be able to stay on at the village school, or have the opportunities that Frederick will have. But they still manage to have a close frienship. When war breaks out they find themselves in the same unit, but of course Frederick is an officer and Daniel isn’t. Only one of them comes back from the war.

I’ve read quite a lot of books which feature WW1 but I think this one depicts the horror of it more than most, and the lack of gratitude and sympathy that those not involved at the front had for the survivors.

This is a great read if you are interested in that era as Helen Dunmore obviously was as she wrote a few books which feature WW1. She was a talented writer, what a sad loss her death was.