Book sculptures in Edinburgh

When we visited the Muriel Spark exhibition at the National Library of Scotland last month I was disappointed that they weren’t allowing people to take photos of the exhibits, but I was allowed to photograph the book sculptures that are on display in the foyer. An anonymous female sculptor made these lovely things and left them at important cultural locations.

Artist work  book sculpture

book sculpture

The first sculpture was found in 2011 and nine others appeared at various locations in Edinburgh. In 2015 the artist decided that her project was coming to an end and she announced she wanted the public to help her with the last one – The Butterfly Tree and Lost Child. People sent in butterflies to be included in the design. The artist has remained anonymous. You can see some images here. It’s obviously much bigger than the others.

The International Style of Muriel Spark at the National Library in Edinburgh

Light show

Yesterday we went up to Edinburgh for several reasons, the first one being to visit the Muriel Spark Exhibition on at the National Library of Scotland. It’s the centenary of her birth. When we got there I was disappointed to see that although they usually encourage people to take photographs they weren’t allowing it in this exhibition for copyright reasons apparently. She was born in Edinburgh but of course spent many years living abroad, mainly in Italy. Well the weather there would have been enticing apart from anything else.

Light show

It’s such a shame that you can’t take photos as Spark seems to have been a hoarder from an early age so there are even jotters from her schooldays of poetry she had written and a school magazine that she had poems published in. She saw herself as a poet despite writing so many novels.

She was a bit of a party animal and corresponded with lots of famous people that she had made friends with including Graham Greene, Doris Lessing, John Updike, Christopher Fry, Miriam Margolyes, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave and even the then Prime Minister Harold MacMillan. There are letters or telegrams from them but the typewritten letter from Marie C. Stopes (the famous contraception for women pioneer) who wrote the book Married Love is a scream. Stopes was vice-president of the Poetry Society and she was incensed at Spark being made president. In her letter Stopes describes Spark as being impertinent to her and she demands to know if Spark had been divorced by her husband. Presumably Stopes didn’t think such a person was fit to be the president. Spark’s reply says that she has no intention of giving her any details of her divorce, implying that Stopes is a dirty old woman for wanting to know what she hopes are salacious details.

If you click on the link above you’ll be able to see some of the things in the exhibition, such as her ration card. There are a couple of her dresses, one a long dark grey silk dress and a lovely blue velvet dress which apparently features in one of her books, I can’t remember which.

If you’re keen on Muriel Spark it’s well worth visiting – if you’re not too far from Edinburgh anyway. There are lots of early copies of her books on display and I just realised that I have far more of her books to track down than I thought.

I think that like many writers Muriel Spark was odd, it’s hard not to feel for her son whom she seems to have abandoned at a very early age, later she was incensed by his devotion to Judaism as an adult – she had ditched that religion and opted to become a Roman Catholic. It looks like she had no maternal instincts which must have been painful for him.

Light show

The photographs are of images that were being projected onto the front of the National Library of Scotland.

Happy New Year!

Like many people I’m fairly glad to see the back of 2017, but given the MAYhem that has been unleashed on us in the UK – I’m trepidatious about 2018.

But heigh-ho – onwards and upwards. I hope that 2018 will be a good one for us all, so Happy New Year to anyone who drops in on me at Pining.

Every year there’s a torchlight procession down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile on the 30th of December. I think we might take part in it next year – I’m told it’s good fun.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Modern One

Some years ago I blogged about the art installation that has been added to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. I thought it was just a temporary thing, a reaction to the financial melt-down of 2008 but obviously it isn’t. In Alexander McCall Smith’s recent Scotland Street book The Bertie Project he mentions this installation. He’s not happy that the word ‘alright’ is there instead of ‘all right’. He has his character Domenica complaining of the use surmising that it must be deliberate as Kingsley Amis desribed ‘alright’ as ‘gross, crass, coarse and to be avoided,’ and Bill Bryson, hardly a fuddy-duddy describes its use as ‘illiterate and unacceptable.’

Domenica admits that she feels very old-fashioned in expecting people to be able to spell. It’s one of McCall Smith’s meandering conversations that often bring in modern morality or ethics.

But a more recent installation in the gallery across the road and several years on from the melt-down is taking a much more pessimistic and possibly Calvinist attitude to our situation.

View from Dean Gallery

It seems we’re done for!

View from Dean Gallery

Edinburgh via Visit Scotland – 12 hidden gems you must explore

The weather here has been fairly decent over the past few days and I’ve been busy getting some gardening done, but today we drove north to Dunkeld. The forecast said heavy April showers and the satellite photo didn’t look great but it turned out to be a beautiful day, but more of that when I’ve had time to go through the photos.

Meanwhile you might be interested in having a wee look at some places in or near Edinburgh that are worthwhile visiting.

The photo below is Dean Village one of my favourite places for a lovely city walk. You would never believe that you are so close to busy streets.

Dean village

Recent book purchases – Mary Stewart

I’ve been looking for these Mary Stewart books and although I had been hoping to find hardbacks in a secondhand bookshop, I decided to settle for the copies in the photo below when I found them in a Stockbridge, Edinburgh bookshop. The covers are so of their time. Airs Above the Ground is a 1967 reprint, it was originally published in 1965. Mr Brother Michael was published in 1959 but this reprint was published in 1971 – the eighth impression.
Mary Stewart
I did read a lot of Mary Stewart’s books way back in the 1970s but I think that I missed Airs Above the Ground and My Brother Michael back then, so I’m really looking forward to reading them soon – for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge of course.

If you are a regular visitor to ‘Pining’ then you’ll realise that Stockbridge in Edinburgh is my favourite stamping ground for books, but when I’m there I never take any photos of the place, I’m too busy perusing book and charity shops and also it’s quite a busy area so it would be impossible to take photos without getting a lot of people in them. So if you want to know what Stockbridge looks like have a keek here.

Another Trip to Edinburgh

Last week we decided to have another jaunt over to Edinburgh, mainly to visit the J.M.W. Turner watercolour exhibition which is on every January and then disappears for the rest of the year.

So we made our way along Princes Street to The National Gallery where we met up with a couple of family members who had never seen the watercolours. You can have a look at the collection and watch a wee video here. It’s a bit of an annual pilgrimage for us, but this time it was busier than usual, it serves us right for going on a Saturday!

After that it was time for lunch so we crossed Princes Street and went up South Saint David Street (I think – I’m not good with Edinburgh’s geography), turned left into George Street to have lunch at The Dome. It’s a fabulously ornate building in Edinburgh’s New Town (which of course is quite old by now, Georgian in fact.)

The Dome

The Dome was indeed originally a bank, it definitely has that feel about it, very opulent, all of our poshest buildings seem to have been built by banks – nothing changes does it?

The Dome

The Dome

You can see more images of The Dome here.

After that we went back up to Princes Street, really so that we could sign up to become ‘friends’ of The National Galleries.
Princes Street

Princes Street

Then we walked through the Christmas market, I thought it would have been cleared away by now but it’s still hanging on. It is really incongruous to see these fairground rides sitting cheek by jowl with Sir Walter Scott’s monument. I must say that they do get a great view of it from those swing seats but you won’t catch me up there!

Princes Street Gardens Christmas 7

A Day Out in Edinburgh

On Wednesday we drove into Edinburgh, we don’t go into the centre all that often, mainly because the more interesting wee independent shops are elsewhere. I really wish I had my pedometer with me to see how many steps I walked because we were all over the place in a big circle from Meadowbank to George Street where we had lunch at Cafe Andaluz. Then we walked on to Lothian Road the West Port and the Grassmarket and back to Meadowbank where we had parked the car. Click on the links if you want to have an armchair trip to Edinburgh with me. The castle just looms up on you as you can see from the photo below. It does seem incongruous when you’re out shopping but the rock and castle were there long before anything else.

acastle 1

acastle 2

The Christmas lights in George Street are truly hideous. I didn’t even bother to take a photo but I found the one below online. Oh for the days when we just had ordinary coloured light bulbs strung from side to side across streets in various patterns!

hristmas lights

I hate these modern LED lights, the light they give out is so cold and brash looking. You can see photos of Princes Street Christmas lights here. I noticed that Google and umpteen other places on the internet think that it is Princess Street – it isn’t!

We were aiming for the second-hand book-shops around the West Port and Grassmarket area, we hadn’t been to those ones for ages so I had high hopes of finding some goodies. But as ever when you have high hopes you tend to end up disappointed and I only ended up getting a couple of J.I.M. Stewart (Michael Innes) paperbacks.

From West Port we made for the Grassmarket and by then it was quite dark and the tree lights were on. This is the old town and in our younger days we used to frequent this area. As you can see Edinburgh Castle towers over this area too.

acastle 3

alights 1
It was quite atmospheric in the gloaming.

alights 2

Below is Victoria Street, a steep one which I could have been doing without but Edinburgh is very hilly and multi-layered, so you just have to get on with it. Just above the top set of lights there is actually another street but you can’t really see it in this photo.

alights 3

You can see more images of The Grassmarket here.

From there we went on down The Royal Mile which had absolutely no signs of Christmas about it, it seemed appropriate for that very Presbyterian stronghold. You can read about that area here.

By then I was fairly exhausted but we still had a long way to go to get to the car, all the way down the Royal Mile (High Street) past the Scottish Parliament building, yes – it IS a bit of a mish-mash!

We walked on past Queen Mary’s bath house. I love that wee building, it’s like something out of a fairy tale.

At last we reached the car and drove on to Morningside to visit one of our ‘boys’ and his lady. By this time it was getting on for dinner time and we were lucky to find the Oxfam book shop still open. I was so lucky to find three Dorothy Dunnet hardbacks that I had been looking for – and a third of the price of the others I had seen and decided against earlier.

We’re at that stage in life when we really don’t need or want anything in the way of expensive presents. It’s going to be a very bookish Christmas for us both.

I hope you enjoyed that armchair trip around Edinburgh. It’s the best way to do it really, a lot less tiring anyway!

Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh

Salisbury Crags from car park

One day last week we decided it was time that we hiked up the Salisbury Crags which are a part of the rocky area to the left of Edinburgh Castle, close to Holyrood Palace. It was a lovely blue sky day by the time we got there and loads of people had had the same idea, it was a busy place. In fact I have to admit that it was only after we got home that we realised it was the Salisbury Crags we had gone up, when we were there we were under the impression we had hiked up to Arthur’s Seat – we’ll do that one next time. Sir Walter Scott calls Salisbury Crags Salusbury Crags in Heart of Midlothian, it’s thought that Salisbury is a corruption of a Gaelic word meaning Willow Brae, but it was anglicised to Salisbury at some point.

Salisbury  Crags rocks

I’m well used to hill walking and this walk looks very easy but you can’t see most of the climb from the bottom and it wasn’t long before I was beginning to think I had bitten off more than I could chew because the beginning of this hike is very steep and I was huffing and puffing up it like an old steam engine. I looked up and saw a wee girl aged about four or five twinkling down the hill on her toes, and I thought if she can do it surely I can.

View from Salisbury Crags 13

The path soon levels out quite a bit and it’s only when you are almost at the top that it begins to get really steep again and now and again I found myself clutching at tufts of grass, but by then the top was in sight.

View from Salisbury  Crags 10

It’s definitely worth the trek as you get great views of Edinburgh from there as you can see. Unfortunately it started to rain when we got to the top, it was so windy that the rain was actually being pushed up again, curving away from the rock as it got about a metre away from it. Golden beads swooping up before getting over the edge and landing on us. Luckily it didn’t last too long as there’s no cover up there!

You can see Edinburgh Castle in the photo below.

View from Salisbury  Crags 2 castle

And Holyrood Palace which is just at the bottom of the Crags. There is a Royal Standard flying but I don’t think the Queen was in residence then. The Firth of Forth is in the distance, you can see one of the islands.

View from Salisbury  Crags 16 Holyrood Pal

We knew that we were going to be the worse for wear the next day, I really expected my thighs to be giving me gyp but it turned out it was our calf muscles that had taken the brunt of the strain. It was two whole days before my legs felt normal!

You can see great images of Salisbury Crags here.

Yet another castle! – Craigmillar Castle near Edinburgh

Craigmillar Castle 1

We visited Craigmillar Castle for the first time last month, it’s only a few miles away from the centre of Edinburgh, but it’s hard to believe it. It seems incredibly rural, if you avoid looking at the ghastly modern housing estate that has been plonked down on its doorstep.

Craigmillar Castle

It’s apparently one of the most complete mediaeval castles in Scotland. It was built in the early 15th century.
It’s fairly open to the elements but still has this lovely vaulted roof as you can see in the photo above.

Craigmillar Castle

And of course stone spiral staircases, this one has a lovely shaped wee window in the wall. The stairs lead to the roof of course.

Craigmillar Castle 7

Hold on to your hat when you’re up here – and anything else you can grab, it’s a long way down.

Craigmillar Castle 5

That’s Edinburgh you can see in the distance, you can make out some spires and even Edinburgh Castle if you click to enlarge the photo below. It’s just to the left of the middle of the skyline. Craigmillar is just over three miles to the south east of Edinburgh. It must have been a lovely place to go to when the smells of medieval Edinburgh got too much to bear.

Craigmillar Castle view stitch

When Rizzio (Mary Queen of Scots musician) was murdered in Holyrood Palace she fled to Craigmillar, and it was there that the plot to murder her husband Lord Darnley was hatched to avenge Rizzio’s murder.

You can see more images of Craigmillar Castle here.