Book Purchases

We were in Edinburgh on Tuesday, right in the middle of the city – Princes Street, we don’t often go there but I wanted to visit the Habitat store. It was a bit of a shock to discover that Habitat has gone from Edinburgh, I knew the one in Glasgow had closed. I suppose we have the internet to blame for that, apparently it closed about five years ago and I’ve only just found out, so obviously they never made much money from me.

Anyway, we rarely go to Edinburgh without visiting Stockbridge, the secondhand bookshops are far more my cup of tea than the shops in Princes Street, or Shandwick Place for that matter. Stockbridge is about a 20 minute walk from the centre of Edinburgh and it’s like a wee separate town, with lots of independent shops – and charity shops of course. You can see some images of parts of Stockbridge here.

I was lucky bookwise as you can see.

books

A lot of them are childrens books, but I like to catch up on what I missed out on as a child. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Nancy Drew book, but I know that Joan @ Planet Joan is a big fan so I couldn’t resist buying:

The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene.

The Marvelous Land of Oz by Frank Baum. I’ve yet to read The first Oz book although I have the second.

The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff. It’s about Britain just after the Romans left, a dark time of change and upheaval. (Does it remind you of anything?!)

Once Upon a Time by A.A. Milne. This book was first published in 1917 but my copy is a 1962 reprint. It’s a series of hilarious adventures apparently – involving a cloak of darkness, magic swords and seven league boots. It sounds like fun – for children of all ages.

A Folly of Princes by the Scottish author Nigel Tranter is set in Fife where I live and involves some of the local castles and King Robert III, it should be interesting as although Tranter wrote fiction his books were well researched.

Crime at Christmas by C.H.B. Kitchin was first published in 1934 but this one is a 2015 reprint by Faber and Faber. I’m going to keep this one fro Christmas reading.

Lament for a Maker by Michael Innes – another Scottish author – was first published in 1938 and it was recommended to me by a blogger yonks ago. I have read a lot of his books, including the ones he wrote under the name J.I.M. Stewart and I always enjoy his writing.

I think you’ll agree that I had quite a successful day in Edinburgh – despite not being able to do my planned shopping in Habitat.

The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne

The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne was first published in 1922, but I read a Vintage reprint which I managed to get through my library. Of course A.A. Milne is mainly known for his Winnie the Pooh books, which I love and it was only through reading blogs that I realised he had written this murder mystery.

The bloggers had all written glowing reports of The Red House but at first I wasn’t too sure about it. However once I really got into it it turned out to be a right good read. I didn’t manage to guess what had been going on which is always a plus for me as I do try to think ahead and work out the mystery.

The book begins: In the drowsy heat of the summer afternoon the Red House was taking its siesta. There was a lazy murmur of bees in the flower-borders, a gentle cooing of pigeons in the tops of the elms. From the distant lawns came the whir of a mowing-machine, that most restful of country sounds; making ease the sweeter in that it is taken while others are working.

So there we have the country house setting so beloved of mystery readers as well as murderers it seems. The owner of The Red House Mark Ablett fell on his feet when he was a young man as he had been left a large amount of money by a relative. His brother Robert was disgruntled to be left nothing as you can imagine, and the two had been on bad terms for years.

Fairly quickly a murder is committed (always best in my opinion, I hate a long run up to the crime) and one of the house guests and his friend take on the roles of Holmes and Watson in an attempt to solve the crime.

This one has some interesting characters, a good mystery and is well written with witty dialogue which reminded me in parts of Georgette Heyer’s in her murder mysteries.

In some ways it’s a shame that Milne’s Pooh books were so successful as they overshadowed this book and he didn’t write any more mysteries.

Armchair Travelling and Winnie the Pooh

This armchair travelling malarkey can be very surprising. A few nights ago I was innocently roaming the internet when I suddenly found myself in Philadelphia of all places – well at least half of me seemed to be there anyway, through the wonders of google chat. It was Joan of Planet Joan on the other end of course and when during our chat she found that she was a wee bit peckish she happened to mention that she had taken ME down to her basement via her Ipad or some such gadget, so that she could get a snack.

I’ve never had a house with a basement and I find the idea quite alarming, so I wanted to know if there was a wee window which you (I) could get out by in case of being somehow locked in there. Joan assured me there was a wee window, then of course I wondered exactly how wee, because I’m not quite as skelf-like as I used to be!

Immediately Winnie the Pooh came to mind, would I be like him and be stuck half-way through the window, or in his case Rabbit’s door. I just love E.H. Shepard’s illustrations

Where is all this silliness leading to I hear you ask?!

Winnie the Pooh was of course written by A.A. Milne and although he was born in England he was brought up in the very strict Scottish Presbyterian tradition, his grandfather was a Scottish Presbyterian minister. So I count A.A. Milne as a Scottish author, if you haven’t already read Winnie the Pooh you might want to do so now and count it towards the Read Scotland 2014 Challenge.

Home Sweet Home – the stairs

staircase

We’ve lived in our house for over 25 years now but I realised that we have hardly any photos of some parts of it so I thought I would take some for posterity as we plan to downsize at some point in the future. The house is around 110 years old, so Victorian/Edwardian. The photo above is of the bottom of the stairs, they lead up to a half-landing – or mezzanine as estate agents call it. They lead up to the bathroom, yes, halfway up/down the stairs is the place where we sit. I’m going to spare you a photo of that though!

staircase 4

I suppose it’s a bit of a quirky house, I don’t think too many houses have a window right at the top corner of the wall on the stairs. You can’t see it too clearly here though. In fact you can’t see much. The small prints are all of Peter Pan illustrations by Arthur Rackham. The large poster facing you is of a Charles Rennie Mackintosh building – The Daily Record Buildings in Glasgow, (the Daily Record has moved somewhere else now) and underneath it is a print of Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s The White Rose and the Red Rose.

staircase 2

I took the photo above from the half landing. As you can see, just about the whole wall is covered with prints, almost all of them with a Scottish link. C.R.Mackintosh flower prints, Scottish British Rail travel posters and some Scottish colourist prints in the shape of The Orange Blind by Cadell and Lilies by Peploe. It occurs to me that it’s the sort of thing which you would expect to see in the home of an exiled Scot, rather than one who lives in Scotland – as I do.

staircase 3

And there’s that window I was telling you about. It doesn’t open and I have to drag ladders out to clean it so that doesn’t happen too often, but it does throw some light onto the stairs, which is handy. Next time I’ll take some photos of the top of the stairs, which you can just see in one of the photos. At the moment it’s a bit of a guddle (mess) though as our main computer is still on that landing – its winter headquarters.

Don’t you just love Kermit’s nephew Robin singing this song by A.A. Milne – Halfway Down the Stairs? I do anyway, so here it is.

A A Milne – Happy Unbirthday

Alan Alexander Milne was born on the 18th January 1882 and I thought about writing a birthday post on that day but then I thought that an ‘unbirthday’ post would be more appropriate.

Although he was born in England A A Milne was from a Scottish Presbyterian background, like so many other authors of childrens’ fiction. The severely strict upbringing seems to have encouraged a wild imagination in those people feeling the need to rebel against such a strait-laced background. Hurrah!!

I didn’t actually read Winnie the Pooh until I had children of my own, and I loved it, in fact I went on a bit of a Pooh binge, reading The Tao of Pooh and Pooh and the Ancient Mysteries as well as collecting classic Pooh ‘stuff’.

Everyone I know seems to be a Pooh character. I think I’m a combination of Kanga and Tigger, depending on my mood, if you can imagine that. Two for the price of one as I keep telling my husband! Which character do you resemble most?

I love the original E H Shepard illustrations and I’m not mad keen on Disney as a rule but I have a soft spot for the 1966 Disney film which you can see some of below.

Classic Children’s Literature

I’ve made a bit of a study of classic children’s literature over the years and although I don’t count myself an expert on the subject, I felt I just had to write to The Guardian Review about last week’s article by A.S. Byatt.

So I was really pleased to see that they had actually published the letter yesterday and illustrated it with a cartoon.

Letters section of Guardian Review 6/3/10

For some reason the Review letters aren’t on the website so I can’t link to them. I took a photo of the page instead. Here’s a close-up of my letter and their cartoon which was by Tom Gauld.

In general it was quite a good article but I do think that Byatt might have made some mention of the fact that so many of the authors she mentioned were actually Scottish.

I find that people from England tend to take it for granted that the great children’s classics were written by English writers. However, J.M. Barrie, George MacDonald, R.L. Stevenson, Kenneth Grahame and A.A. Milne were all Scottish. In the case of Milne, I believe he was born in England but brought up by Scottish parents and had a grandfather who was a church of Scotland minister. Just thought I’d mention it.