Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times – 1st November

I’m a wee bit later than I had hoped to be with Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times which was originally hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness, but at the moment I’m gathering any posts.

My bookshelf this week is another one in my sewing/crafting/ironing room and this bookshelf is home to a variety of children’s books, I suppose they could all be described as being classics.

Books Again

As a youngster I adored Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series and had all of the books, but my mother gave my books away to a boy who was certainly not going to appreciate any of them and I now only have a few of the books, I intend to gather them all and have a re-read at some point. These were the very first books that I read with a Cornish setting, not long after Malory Towers came Rebecca another favourite and ever since then I’ve loved to travel to Cornwall in fiction. My one holiday there (it’s a long drive from Scotland) was a very damp one. The BBC recently dramatised Malory Towers and I really did enjoy it although I wish they hadn’t updated it to appeal to more modern viewers, it’s always a mistake to remove the period charm of any books.

I have quite a few books by Rosemary Sutcliff, she really was a very good historical writer.

I started buying Angela Brazil books whenever I saw them going cheap, some can be eye wateringly expensive online, I must admit that I haven’t read all of them and I’m not even sure if I ever read any as a child. I was more of a Chalet School (Elinor M. Brent-Dyer) girl, I think I preferred the more exotic locations.

I sometimes buy books by particular publishers, namely Blackie. They were a Scottish firm and Blackie commissioned Charles Rennie Mackintosh to design Hill House in Helensburgh, including all the furniture, lighting, fabrics and clocks. It’s just about all that’s left of the architect/designer’s work now so I have a soft spot for Blackie and their books which often had book covers designed by Mackintosh. I doubt if For the Sake of the School was designed by Mackintosh but I really like it anyway.


I bought another Blackie book just for the dust jacket which features an aeroplane flying above a Zeppelin on fire. I haven’t read The Corsair of the Skies yet and hadn’t even heard of A.Guy Vercoe, have you?


Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster is one that I read for the first time recently. I like to catch up with children’s books that I missed as a child. My copy dates from 1929 and cost me all of £2.

Some of the books lying flat on top of the shelved books are American and were kindly sent to me by Jennifer, a blogpal that I met up with in Edinburgh, remember those lovely days when we could do that? Fingers crossed we can do that again at some point in the future. There’s also A Parcel of Patterns by Jill Paton Walsh. I noticed that her obituary was in the Guardian this week, you can read it here.

Other Bookshelf Travellers this week are:

A Son of the Rock

Bitter Tea and Mystery

Staircase Wit

Recent book purchases

When we drove up north of Aberdeen for a few nights last week we had a specific goal in sight – a bookshop in Huntly that we had been told about by a friend. To be honest I was quite disappointed when I saw the shop as it’s really small, however I managed to buy a surprising number of books.

Another Book Haul

1. Continental Crimes Edited by Martin Edwards – a compilation of short stories, another in the British Crime Classics series.
2. Man Overboard by Monica Dickens
3. An Impossible Marriage by Pamela Hansford Johnson
4. Coot Club by Arthur Ransome
5. Company Parade by Storm Jameson
6. No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville-West

and three Puffin books – yes it seems that I have started a Puffin collection – sort of inadvertently.

7. The Wool-Pack by Cynthia Harnett (A Carnegie Medal Winner)
8. The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall (A Carnegie Medal Winner)
9. A Parcel of Patterns by Jill Paton Walsh

Have you read any of these books?

The Wyndham Case by Jill Paton Walsh

The Wyndham Case by Jill Paton Walsh was published in 1993. The only other books which I had read by this author were a Dorothy L. Sayers book which had been unfinished when Sayers died, which Walsh finished off, and a book in which she used the Sayers’ characters. This book is the first in a series featuring Imogen Quy – to rhyme with why.

The Wyndham Case has very much the same sort of feel, although updated. The setting is St Agatha’s College Cambridge, a place of petty rivalries between librarians and snobbery and bullying amongst the students.

Imogen Quy is the St Agatha’s College nurse and by the second page she was being sought out by the College Master – Sir William Buckmote, a tragedy has occurred. That was a big plus for me as I’m not keen on crime novels where the murder doesn’t occur until half-way through the book.

One of the students has been found dead in the Wyndham library, his head in a pool of blood. Is it murder or merely a tragic accident?

The deceased student happens to have been one of the few who come from a non fee-paying school, in fact he came from a grammar school and as such was suspect by the other students who looked down on him. Even worse as far as they were concerned – he actually wanted to learn things, whereas the wealthy students were more into partying.

Imogen Quy suspects foul play, but she’s the only one who does and there’s another murder before her fears are taken seriously.

This book was a sort of cross between a Dorothy L Sayers book and an Inspector Morse one, because of the supposedly superior college setting. I must admit it took me a wee while to get into it, despite the speedy murder. I found the dialogue to be awkward at the beginning but I ended up enjoying it and for me the twists and turns were unexpected. I will read more in the series at some point in the future.

The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh

The Late Scholar cover

The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh and published in 2013 is one of those books in which she has taken the Dorothy L. Sayers characters, Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey and written a tale, supposedly in the style of Sayers. I read the first one which Walsh wrote, actually she finished a book which Sayers had begun, and I wasn’t too convinced by it as I recall.

But either I’m getting less fussy or this one was better. Set in 1953, Peter is now the Duke of Denver due to the death of his elder brother and part of his duties is to be the ‘visitor’ of an Oxford University college, St Severins.

There has been quite a lot of upset at the college between two warring factions of fellows. Some want to sell a rare book which may have been owned by King Alfred, and some of the writing in it may even be by the king. The other faction want to sell the book so that some land can be bought as a money making opportunity for the college.

The voting for and against has been at a deadlock and it seems that in desperation someone has taken to murder as a way of winning the vote. Harriet and Peter, with the help of Bunter of course sort things out.

Jill Paton Walsh does a good job of writing the characters, albeit they are less witty, mainly because they are now married, the storyline lacks the ‘will they won’t they’ sparkle of the earlier Sayers books. Peter and Harriet are now an old married couple with almost grown up sons, the chase has been long won and Peter doesn’t have to dress up in a harlequin suit again. A shame really as it was fun when Harriet kept turning his offers of marriage down. Especially as a large amount of the female readers would have jumped at the chance to marry someone like him, including Sayers herself.

Library Books

You might know that I’ve been doing an awful lot of library borrowing in recent months. Sixteen local libraries (Fife) are under threat of closure and I and lots of other people have been doing a bit of campaigning to try to get at least some of the libraries a reprieve. I’m concentrating on Glenwood, Markinch and Falkland as those are the ones nearest me. I’ve been to all three of them this week and my library haul is:

1. The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir
2. Smut by Alan Bennett
3. The Catherine Wheel by Patricia Wentworth
4. A Particular Eye for Villainy by Ann Granger
5. Snare of the Hunter by Helen MacInnes
6. Peter Wimsey Investigates the Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh
7. Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith
8. Scotland’s Hidden History by Ian Armit

Jack has also borrowed books:-
First World War Poems chosen by Andrew Motion,
The Fires of Autumn by Irene Nemirovsky
21st Century Science Fiction edited by David G Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden
and The Untouchables by John Banville (which he actually has a copy of but not read yet and only borrowed to boost the numbers.)

I haven’t read anything by Ann Granger before but the librarian likes her writing, nor have I read anything by Alan Bennett, but I’ve enjoyed his work on TV. Scotland’s Hidden History by Ian Armit is the only non-fiction book and it’s about the many Neolithic tombs, stone circles, brochs, hillforts, standing stones, Viking graves and such which are scattered all over Scotland.

I intend to read them all, it seems like cheating to take books out of the libraries and not read them – just to put the reader statistics up – but at this rate I’ll definitely have to stop buying books as my own unread books just keep piling up!

Have you read any of these book and if so what did you think of them?

PS. If you want to see photographs of the Falls of Dochart which we visited with Peggy and Evee in May then hop over to Jack’s blog.

Book Purchases


We were walking down that steep hill which leads to Linlithgow Palace, after enjoying another visit there, this time accompanied by Peggy from PA when I spotted a sign in the doorway of one of the shops.

Don’t look now I said to Jack but that sign says BOOK SALE!

We tried to get past it. Honestly, especially as Peggy has bought so many books over the past three weeks she has been staying with us that she will have to pack them up in a couple of boxes and send them home to the US the long way over the pond.

Anyway, we got dragged through that doorway just by the thought that there might be some books in there which we’ve been wanting for years and as you can see from the photo above I did find more than a couple which I couldn’t bypass. The sale was something to do with World Book night.

1. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
2. The Perfect Murder by Peter James
3. Picadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse
4. A Desert in Bohemia by Jill Paton Walsh
5. No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym
6. Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan
7. Garden Herbs – The Garden Handbooks

I read the Barbara Pym book yonks ago and gave my copy away but I feel it’s time for a re-read. The only book by Jill Paton Walsh which I’ve previously read was the one which was begun by Dorothy Sayers and Walsh finished it off. I couldn’t resist the Elizabeth Buchan book, just because of the title. Wodehouse just hits the spot at times when you can’t face reading anything too taxing on the brain. The Maggie O’Farrell book was recommended by Peggy. I haven’t read anything by Peter James before so I thought I’d give him a go, and lastly I bought the Garden Herbs book as it’s so comprehensive – in fact if I ever fancy becoming a white witch this one will be my bible. I have a feeling that Jack might think I already am a white witch, but that’s husbands for you!

BBC Radio 4 extra on the iPlayer

I was listening to Radio 4 Extra this afternoon whilst making a pot of lentil soup, as you do, well it has suddenly got really cold, I got caught in a hailstorm today and it’s going to be icy overnight apparently, so soup is a necessity!

Anyway, at the end of ahem Dick Barton Special Agent, the presenter mentioned some of the up and coming attractions in the shape of an Eric Ambler thriller, Sherlock Holmes and much more. I’ve just realised that I missed a Jill Paton Walsh thing so I’ll be listening to that via the iPlayer soon too. Have a look here if you haven’t already!

I also saw an episode of the Martin Clunes programme Islands of Britain on the telly last night and wondered if some of it might be on You Tube and sure enough it is. I thought it might be of interest to some people who can’t get it on their TV.

The other thing which I thought folks might like to see is good old Tom Weir. I think I saw that Peggy Ann was watching him. You might never have heard of him before, he died a couple of years ago but he was a good age and about 30 or 40 years ago his short TV programmes used to be on a lot. I was amazed when I looked in on my insomniac then teenage son some years ago to see that he was watching an ancient Weir’s Way at about 3 o’clock in the morning. Tom had a big following with the insomniacs I think.

Although Tom had climbed all over the world, even up the Himalayas, it was always the hills of home which were his favourites and they happened to be in the area which I grew up, he was a a bit of a local hero and could often be seen on the hills. If you’re interested in some Scottish scenery there are loads of clips of Tom. Here’s one for a starter!