Wintry Walk in Fife

Come on – how about coming with me on a wintry walk in Fife, it’ll help blow the cobwebs away! One afternoon a couple of weeks ago during a really cold snap we went for a walk in nearby woodland.

Balbirnie Estate trees

And then we left the woodland, crossed the road and set out for the open farmland surrounding the woods.

Estate Trees

Farm Track

It was the middle of November but the trees were still holding onto leaves and looking quite colourful, I think some of them are beeches.

Trees

In the summer these fields will have crops of wheat, oats or barley in them.

winter Trees

The fields had been boggy after all the rain we’d had earlier in the year but where there were tractor tracks the puddles in them had been frozen over. We kept to the farm track, in the photo below you can just see a small bridge that goes over a railway line, there’s a concrete and brick structure above and beside the track which looks like a World War 2 pillbox.

Railway  Bridge and pillbox

Presumably the pillbox was built to defend the track in the event of attack.

Pillbox

Below is the track going north.
Railway  track

And below the track is going south to Edinburgh.
Railway  track, Fife

We disturbed some pheasants in one of the fields and they flew off in that awkward way they have that makes me think that anyone who shoots them for ‘sport’ is akin to a murderer as it seems they can’t fly away very well, having said that they were too fast for me to get a photo of them.

Trees in Fife

By then we were frozen to the bone so we turned for home, it was coffee and cake time! I’m sorry I couldn’t share that with you, but I hope you enjoyed your rural stroll with me in Fife.
Road

The land around here isn’t that far from Falkland Palace and I imagine that when Mary of Guise, Mary Stuart and King James lived there this area would have been part of their riding and hunting ground as Falkland was built as a hunting palace. It would have been much more heavily wooded in those days. The Palace is mentioned in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles

The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett

The Disorderly Knights cover

The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett is the third book in her Lymond series and was first published in 1966.

I had a look at Goodreads to see what other readers thought of this one because although I loved the second half of the book there were parts of the first half that dragged for me. I really wasn’t too keen on the bits that were set in Malta and Tripoli, but by the time the action switched back to Scotland I found myself sitting up in bed – still reading at 2.30 am.

I don’t even think that this book is really perfect for bedtime reading as you have to concentrate on it, but when it got to 2.30 I had sworn to myself that I would put the light out at the end of the chapter and then I noticed that the next chapter sub-heading was Dumbarton, April/May 1552 – which just happens to be the town that I grew up in! I forced myself to give up for the night though, despite dying to know what was going to be happening at Dumbarton.

As it turned out I was slightly disappointed because Dunnett didn’t describe the town’s surroundings at all, which makes me think that she didn’t go there to do any research as there are lots of lovely hills and crags around Dumbarton to describe, and the castle rock is visible for miles around and would have been even more so in those days. Mind you nowadays you could just get on the internet and look at Google earth if you want to describe a location.

Dunnett wound this tale around actual historical events and a few of the people were real too. As ever I really started to dislike Lymond a lot, for most of the book he seemed like an out and out baddie, but I should have known better by now. When he gets back to Scotland he has the job of training a large amount of men who are going to be used to keep the rule of law in the Scottish Border country where the land has been constantly fought over by the Scots and English, in truth those Border families were only ever interested in their own survival, seeing themselves as being on neither the Scottish or English side, and who could blame them for that. Lymond is also thinking of himself as he is being employed by the English to keep the peace in the Border lands, but that’s easier said than done.

Meanwhile Graham Reid Malett/Gabriel who is a ‘high heid yin’ in the Noble Order of Knights Hospitallers is making a good job of putting Lymond in a bad position, making him look like an absolute swine!

My Christmas Books

books 1

I’m thankful to be able to say that most of the gifts I got at Christmas were either books or book related, in fact I got so many I think I’ll be doing two posts on my haul.

I went a bit Dorothy Dunnett mad and decided to collect her Niccolo series, I hope I enjoy them.

As it gets towards Christmas I just tell Jack to wrap up any books that I buy in second-hand bookshops, most of the time I forget what the books are by the time it comes to unwrapping them at Christmas so it’s still a surprise, the kind I like. I really don’t enjoy real surprises as sometimes they turn into real shocks!

The Gaudy by J.I.M. Stewart
The Young Patullo by J.I.M. Stewart
The Madonna of the Astrolabe by J.I.M. Stewart
Papa La-Bas by John Dickson Carr
Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden
Mary Poppins in the Park by P.L. Travers
Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
Words of Mercury by Patrick Leigh Fermor

and by Dorothy Dunnett:

Niccolo Rising
The Spring of the Ram
Gemini
The Unicorn Hunt

I didn’t read the Mary Poppins books as a child and after enjoying the film Saving Mr Banks at Christmas about P.L Travers’s relationship with Walt Disney and the making of Mary Poppins I thought it was about time I rectified that and luckily I found an old copy in St Andrews.

This year I plan to concentrate on reading my own books!

Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett

Queens' Play cover

I actually read Queens’ Play a wee while ago, but I have such a backlog of book reviews to catch up with, mainly because of not blogging while we were on holiday. I use this blog to keep track and remind myself of books that I’ve read though, so here goes.

Queens’ Play which was first published in 1964 is the second in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles and as I recall, I enjoyed it even more than the first one. These books aren’t really suitable for bedtime reading – well not for me anyway because they require more concentration than I can usually summon up by then.

In Queens’ Play Francis Crawford – more commonly known as Lymond is in France at the court of the seven year old Mary Queen of Scots. He has been invited there by her mother, Mary of Guise who thinks that her daughter is at risk of assassination, with good reason no doubt. The young Mary was sent from Scotland to France as a five year old, but that might have been a case of jumping from the frying pan to the fire.

As France and Scotland shared an enemy in England it was hoped that the young Mary and the young French Dauphin would eventually strengthen the alliance through a marriage. But those in power in England were obviously against that alliance. It was Lymond’s job to seek out intrigues and to protect Mary from them.

The New York Time Book Review said:

“(Her) hero is as polished and perceptive as Lord Peter Wimsey and as resourceful as James Bond.”

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.

Scottish Highland Book Purchases

books 2

The photo above is of the books that I managed to buy on our brief jaunt up to the Highlands with Peggy. Some were bought at the Pitlochry railway station, a local charity has turned an old waiting room into a bookshop, and they have some great books at very reasonable prices. There’s also another second-hand bookshop just off the high street, well worth a look. I think it’s called Priory Books. I bought two there I believe.

Others I bought in Fort William in a second-hand bookshop just off the main street. It’s not that big but I’m always lucky there.

A few of these books jumped right to the top of my queue so I’ve already read three of them, but only managed to blog about one of them so far – Candleshoe.

Garden Open Tomorrow by Beverley Nichols
The Small Dark Man by Maurice Walsh
The River Monster by Compton Mackenzie
The Progress of a Crime by Julian Symons
The Wooden Overcoat by Pamela Branch
King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett (about Macbeth)
Quenn’s Play by Dorothy Dunnett
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
Candleshoe by Michael Innes
A Child’s Garden of Verses by R.L. Stevenson (illustrated by Michael Foreman)

A decent haul I think but it is a wee bit worrying that within less than two weeks I bought 24 books, apart from anything else I need another bookcase now, or maybe I should perform a book cull, but I’ve done that before and ended up regretting getting rid of some books. I might have a six months cooling off period for them in the garage and see how I feel about them after that.

Have you bought many books recently?

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

The Game of Kings cover

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett was first published in 1962 and it appears in the 100 Top Scottish Books. It’s the first book in a series of six which are described by many as historical romance but I would say that romance keeps a fairly low profile, which is fine by me.

It took me about five days to read this book and it isn’t really one for bedtime reading, you have to concentrate on the storyline which has plenty of twists and turns. Quite early on I thought to myself that Dunnett’s writing reminded me of Sir Walter Scott, very wordy and convoluted. Then it dawned on me that she was writing about Scott’s ancestors, he was apparently very proud of his Border riever antecedents and Will Scott and his father Wat (Walter) feature quite a lot in this book.

The Scottish Border country in the past has been notorious for violence and double dealing, with the land constantly being fought over and changing hands from Scots to English. The upshot of all that is the people living in the Border country tended to be on neither side, except their own, so the Border families were well known for being on neither side and just looking out for themselves.

The year is 1547, it’s a time which is known as The Rough Wooing when Henry VIII was determined to arrange a marriage between his son Edward and the child Mary Queen of Scots and prevent her from marrying the French dauphin and thus forming an alliance with France.

It’s a time of intrigue and Francis Crawford of Lymond is back in Scotland after having been a galley slave on a French boat. He’s still an outlaw in Scotland as the evidence against him points to him being a traitor to his own country. He’s an awkward character and in some ways his own worst enemy but he has great charisma.

I really enjoyed The Game of Kings and I’ll definitely be reading the other books in the series. I especially like books which have a local setting for me and just about every place that was mentioned is known to me, with Dumbarton, especially, being mentioned a lot and that is of course the town I grew up in. I just had to imagine places as they would have been about 500 years ago, very easy when it’s places like Stirling, Linlithgow and Haddington.

Forthcoming Bookish Attractions

Ten days ago I got a message from WordPress congratulating me on 7 years of blogging. I knew that the anniversary was coming up, but I had been under the impression that it had been 6 years – ah well, numbers have never been my strong point and time flies when you’re having fun! When I started ‘Pining’ I was very loath to stick my head up above the parapet on the internet and I was determined to be more or less anonymous, hence at the beginning I didn’t even put my own name on any comments, just the blog name. The photograph of me wasn’t really recognisable – I hope. But I’ve sort of got over my shyness now (probably an age thing) and I’m out there and I just don’t care! I’ve ‘met’ some lovely friends from all over the place through the blog and I just never would have met them otherwise. It has been a life enriching experience. Anyway …

I haven’t been one for joining in many challenges, in fact I’m not a big joiner of anything like clubs, but this year I hope to join a few more, certainly the Reading My Own Damn Books Challenge hosted by Estella’s Revenge – because I really have to concentrate on my books rather than reading those from the library.

To encourage me and make my reading a bit less – hmm what shall I read next … decisions decisions -ish … I’ve decided to publish a list of books I intend to read soon. So starting with March, yes amazingly it’ll be March in just over a couple of weeks, I’m going for six must reads although I know I’ll be reading more than that within the month.

Books Again

1. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett (I’ve had it over a year)
2. Introduction to Sally by Elizabeth von Arnim (over two years)
3. Crossriggs by Jane and Mary Findlater (around about eight years)
4. Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston (a recent purchase)
5. The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens (fairly recent)
6. Cork on the Water by Macdonald Hastings ( I have no idea how long)

Have any of you read any of them?

If anyone wants to share their ‘forthcoming bookish attractions’ then feel free to do so via the comments. Or you might want to read one of my March books so we can compare notes when the time comes.