Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy is a lovely park which was designed and built in Victorian times. They usually involve a lot of land and land being so expensive nowadays they’re a thing of the past, but apparently if you live near one it makes your home much more desirable. We used to live a two minute walk from this one so whenever I came across old postcards of Beveridge Park I snapped them up for my album. This blogpost will probably only be of interest to Langtouners – natives of Kirkcaldy in Fife, or people who know and love the park.
The postcard below is of the long gone bandstand, it’s such a shame that most of these elegant bandstands were ripped down, mainly in the 1960s and 70s I think. Possibly some were demolished during the World War 2 scavenge for metal for the war effort.
The next postcard is of what we have always called the duck pond, but I see that it is described as ‘the lake’ on the postcard, it hasn’t changed much.
The following one shows the original layout of the formal part of the park.
This last postcard is the only one which has actually been postally used and it bears a postmark – May 12 08. So it’s 110 years old. The bottom part of the photo looks very different nowadays because there are enormous trees there now.
I got Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell in the Classics Club spin and I thought to myself, – that’s fine, I have loads of time to read it so I’ll get on with some other reading now. So it was with a horrible shock that I read an email from the Classics Club recently and realised that all that time had whizzed past, and I hadn’t even started my spin book. I got my skates on but still wasn’t finished in time, anyway better late than never, here goes.
When I put Homage to Catalonia on my list I didn’t realise that this is a non-fiction book, but I think it still counts as a classic. It was first published in 1938 and it’s about George Orwell’s experiences as a volunteer soldier in the Spanish Civil War. A civil war is always even nastier than any other war, and this one was incredibly complicated due to the number of warring factions. A mixture of Anarchists, Socialists, Communists, Fascists, Revolutionaries and various others meant that the many volunteers from other countries could easily find themselves fighting for the wrong side inadvertently, as happened to poor Mary McGregor in Muriel Spark’s Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
Orwell says: The revolutionary atmosphere of Barcelona had attracted me deeply, but I had made no attempt to understand it. As for the kaleidoscope of political parties and trade unions, with their tiresome names – P.S.U.C., P.O.U.M., F.A.I., C.N.T., U.G.T., J.C.I., J.S.U., A.I.T., – they merely exasperated me. It looked at first sight as though Spain were suffering from a plague of initials.
Some general said that war plans go out the window after the first shot is fired, but this war seems to have been more shambolic than any other. The soldiers in the P.O.U.M which was the outfit that Orwell was fighting in had very little in the way of weapons and equipment. After taking part in a daring assault on the Fascist trenches, the soldiers were more interested in looting anything they could from the evacuated enemy trench, but they discovered that the folks on the other side were in an even worse state than the P.O.U.M, there was nothing worth looting, not even any food. Lack of decent clothing and weapons seem to be a feature of all wars which I’ve read about.
After over 100 days at the front Orwell got a few days leave to go to Barcelona where his wife was staying. Instead of a well earned rest away from fighting he found himself in the middle of street fighting for the city and discovered that the P.O.U.M had been declared illegal so he was in grave danger of being flung into prison and shot with no trial.
The civil war was being reported in newspapers but the men writing the reports were miles and miles away from the action, and basically made their reports up, so Orwell warns people not to believe what is written or heard of any action, everything was lies and exagerration.
He escaped back to England 1938, where life was going on calmly, it was all bowler hats, cricket matches, red buses, Royal weddings – all sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England, from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs.
At one point Orwell wrote about British warships having been sent to Spain, supposedly to pick up refugees. He didn’t think that they were there for that reason and he thought that the British government was on the side of Franco. However that was written very soon after the fact and I know that at least one ship did pick up British citizens to rescue them from the war. One of those rescued was a very young Laurie Lee (Cider with Rose – amongst other books). In fact Laurie Lee wrote a book about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War and when someone pointed out that he hadn’t been in it as he had been evacuated – Lee claimed that he had gone back out to Spain after that. I somehow think that he was one of the many men making up their own war stories of fighting which they had never seen.
One thing which really did annoy me was that Orwell persisted in calling everyone from Britain – English. It’s a state of affairs which people tend not to fall into nowadays, what Scots, Welsh or Irish person would relish being described as being English? – none obviously, but Orwell did it, as was normal for the times I suppose, but completely ignorant.
So many men from Fife and the Lothians died in Spain that there is a memorial to them in Kirkcaldy. Jack wrote about it here.
This was an interesting but at times confusing read, and completely different from what I expected.
On a lighter note, I couldn’t help being reminded of this bit from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
I’ve recently been given a whole load of books, first by our friend Eric and then even more by Peggy from the US. I had decided that I wasn’t going to look at any books whenever we went out anywhere, just so that I could concentrate on whittling away at some of my book piles.
But there is no hope for me, just as I had said that to Jack he came up to me in a shop to give me the news that he had found two British Library Crime Classic books, of course it was the lovely 1930s covers which had attracted him. So it’s his fault entirely that I added those ones to the ever growing piles. Both of them by Mavis Doriel Hay, I don’t even recall ever hearing anything about her, but I couldn’t resist them. They are Death on the Cherwell and Murder Underground.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, in another charity shop today he spotted Mystery in White by J.Jefferson Farjeon, now I have heard only good things of this one so I couldn’t pass up the chance to buy it.
As luck would have it we were both feeling a bit under the weather over the last couple of weeks and indeed the actual weather was not helping our moods either, so we both sort of read our way out of it, whilst totally ignoring everything else. Luxury. It’s wonderful to be able to read a book in a day! So I’m fairly ploughing through the book piles.
On another bookish note, we’ve been using our local libraries a lot since moving to a more rural location last year. There are several small libraries in villages a short drive from us and we had been hoping that using those ones and pushing their lending statistics up would mean they would be safer from closure. Honestly we did our best! But there gas been an announcement to the effect that Fife Council intend to close 16 libraries! I honestly never thought that so many would be under threat.
Those small libraries are often a sort of local hub and the only place where some people can get access to a computer. Primary schools won’t be able to take the children to library visits and that means that for a lot of them they just will never see the inside of a library as their parents are either too busy to take them, or just don’t have the inclination to do so.
I feel a campaign coming on!
On a happier note, if you are in the Kirkcaldy area then do yourself a favour and get along to the library and museum where The Great Tapestry of Scotland is on exhibition. We saw it when it was at the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh but went again yesterday, really as we were just killing time but I think I enjoyed it even more on the second viewing. The exhibition is on until the 20th of September.
A couple of days ago I got a letter from Tesco confirming that they are indeed going to close their Kirkcaldy store. They obviously aren’t bothered about keeping my custom as they didn’t even take the chance to tell me where my nearest Tesco would now be.
When I blogged about this a few weeks ago I got a comment from Colin who thought that Tesco might be persuaded to keep the store open at the last minute – with the kudos for the change of heart going to Gordon Brown, although as he is standing down as the local MP in May that never seemed too likely to me.
I was quite amazed though to see a local Fife Council official on TV who seemed to be saying that ‘they’ were even willing to offer money to Tesco to help to keep the Kirkcaldy store open!! I was gobsmacked by that thought. Much as I want the Tesco store to stay open, for the sake of shoppers and particularly for the staff, I don’t think it’s appropriate for the council tax payers of Fife to be in effect subsidising a multi-billion profit making company.
Apparently the Kirkcaldy store only makes £21,000,000 profit each year. If they aren’t happy with that amount of profit what exactly would they be happy with?
At a time when the council tax budget is stretched to breaking point with services cut to the bone it seems bizarre in the extreme to suggest giving any of it to Tesco. I for one would complain about that.
The promenade/esplanade at Kirkcaldy has been shut to the public for over a year whilst refurbishment was in progress and a few weeks ago they had a ‘promenade stroll’ to officially re-open it. The photo above is of the west end of the prom, where there is a gathering of strollers who were being led by a pipe band.
Various groups of people were taking part in the festivities, including kayakers, rowers and someone zipping around on a jet-ski. There had been reports that there would be a group of wild swimmers but that turned out not to be true which is just as well as they would have got hypothermia in no time flat. I did see one chap struggling to get into a wet suit but I never did see him reach the water! The wee baton twirlers weren’t there either, it was just too cold and wet for them I think.
As you can see, there’s now a smart new sea wall and hundreds of tons of rocks have been dumped on the beach beneath the wall in an effort to break the wild seas up and protect the wall. It’s a process which has been very successful in villages a bit further along the coastline.
And above is a photo of the small pipe band which proceeded from the west to the east of the promenade for the opening. The work was started when we were still living in Kirkcaldy and as the prom walk was one of our regular exercise routes we were sad not to be able to go along it for so long but Jack photographed the work in progress and you can see some of them here.
I had somehow managed to forget that the move to the new house, much further away from the River Forth, would mean that we were likely to get much more snow. We did actually drive into Kirkcaldy today and sure enough – there was no snow there!
I’m not mad keen on snow, it’s fine to look out on as long as you have plenty of food in the house, but I hate the thought of having to travel in it. In my ideal world snow would only arrive for Christmas Day and disappear before everybody had to go back to work.
Yesterday I was saying – roll on the winter solstice and now I’m saying – roll on the spring weather. How we wish our lives away!
On a recent walk to nearby Seafield beach I noticed that although it was beginning to spit with rain the sun was shining on Dysart Harbour to my left, I don’t know when the wind turbine appeared but it’s a plus as far as I’m concerned, quite elegant looking.
A couple of seconds later I took this photo, just a wee bit to the right of Dysart, out in the Firth of Forth there was a rainbow which you might be able to see if you look carefully, and to the right of that there’s quite a lot of rain falling.
Just a couple of minutes later we were back to blue skies, it was just about a four seasons in one day sort of day!
Walking along towards Seafield my progress was stopped by a wee river which appeared amongst the rocks and ran into the Forth. It made lovely patterns in the sand but they don’t show up that well in the photos.
I inadvertently got into the photo below, as you can see, long shadows. It was after four o’clock by this time, isn’t it great when the light nights get here again.
This picnic area is just behind where I took the photos and I noticed these two seagulls running on the spot, then cocking their heads to listen for movement underground. They’re crafty, they paddle their feet up and down to simulate rainfall, hoping to trick any nearby worms into popping their heads up out of the earth, as they do when it rains, so that they aren’t in danger of drowning. It looks comical.
We had a walk around the housing estate which you can just see in the background, just wondering if it would be a good place to move to as there weren’t many houses coming up for sale, but we decided that we definitely don’t want to live so close to the sea, especially as it was roaring in just yards away from the houses. That and the fact that not long ago Seafield was a coal-mine, until Thatcher closed it down in the 1980s. There are some lovely houses there but it’s not my idea of a safe place to live. Especially having seen all those enormous holes opening up in various towns and also houses tumbling into the sea. What with all that and having to think about the risk of flooding in lots of places, house-hunting isn’t as easy as you would think.
I thought I would take some photos of Beveridge Park in the winter, although it has been a very mild one so far so no spectacular snow or frozen fountains this time. The photo above is of the cottage which is just inside the main gate. I think the head park keeper used to live in it but nowdays it’s used for offices.
There is actually a thin layer of ice over the top of the pond in this one, but it must have been warmer at the other end of the pond as it was ice free. The ice was a surprise to me because it didn’t feel cold at all, there was no wind for once and it’s the wind which makes you feel the cold, it goes through your bones. The pond birds don’t seem to notice the weather though.
There was some kind of stand off between the swans and geese as you can see, we didn’t fancy getting involved in it so we detoured around them onto another path – I know, cowardly but those swans are big beasts.
The tree above is always the first one to flower,I still have no idea what it is, it’s too early for cherry obviously, maybe almond though.
As you can see there was still some frost on the grass. The trees have taken a bit of a bashing from the wind this winter and the park workers have been kept busy clearing up the broken branches, but they still look good, and I suppose it’s natural pruning which won’t do them any harm, might even encourage new growth.
The three cygnets from last year are turning to white now, they are about half way there and in the spring they’ll fly off elsewhere. I think two of them have already been moved to another pond or loch, they have disappeared anyway.
And as you can see that adult swan is still keeping a close eye on the geese. The park has quite a good population of birds, apart from the normal gulls and rooks there are also moorhens and various types of ducks and even a pare of herons. The oyster catchers and curlews are usually poking away at the grass, obviously finding something to eat but I don’t know what.
I hope you enjoyed a wee tour around a winter park in Fife.
The old building in the photo above is situated at the east end of Kirkcaldy High Street. It must be one of the oldest buildings in the town and a few years ago it was buffed up and refurbished, as was the building adjoining it on the left hand side.
Unfortunately as you can just see the guttering on the left hand building is badly in need of repair as it’s obviously leaking into the traditional lime plaster and must be causing damage to the fabric of the building. It looks a lot worse on the far left but I’ve spared you that sight.
The plaque above is also in Kirkcaldy High Street, unfortunately Adam Smith’s family home was demolished many years ago. This is a depressing feature of Kirkcaldy life. Anything which would have been of interest to tourists has been pulled down, and they did have houses which people would have wanted to visit.
Within a stone’s throw of each other there was the Adam Smith house, Thomas Carlyle’s home and the school he taught in and Gladney House, which was the home of the famous Robert Adam and his brother John. Their father was also a famous architect, William Adam.
On a cheerier note the town is refurbishing an old cottage which is situated behind the High Street and I believe that the powers that be intend to turn it into an Adam Smith museum. I just wonder what they will fill it with as I think they only have a copy of his book Wealth of Nations on show at the moment.
About a week ago we went for a woodland walk down to the Mill Dam which is on the edge of Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy. I went armed with a plastic box, just in case I found some ripe brambles/blackberries.
It wasn’t long before I found a nice fankled clump of them, I’ve dug up quite a few which have been growing in my garden because if I left them they’d take over in no time, but I’m glad to see them out in the wilds.
As you can see from this photo there were still a lot which weren’t quite ripe enough for the picking, they’re probably just about perfect now if you fancy picking some for yourself.
I heard a racket in the trees above and discovered that it was grey squirrels racing from tree to tree. I had no idea they were so noisy, but maybe they were trying to knock down the acorns to add to their stores, they succeeded anyway as it was raining acorns.
I picked over 2lbs of brambles in no time. When I got back home I had to look up some recipes to see what I could do with them.
In the end I didn’t do anything exciting at all, just added them to apples and boiled them up with sugar to make jam. I do have big pans which are the perfect size for jam making but they’re old aluminium pans and they are now recommending that you don’t use them for acidic fruit as the aluminium is not good for you and possibly contributes to your chances of getting dementia. The acid doesn’t half clean the aluminium well though – I know from past experience! I used my wok as the important thing is to have a pan wide enough to get a good boil going.
I used ordinary eating apples and I don’t know which variety they were but they give the jam a slightly spicy flavour, as if I had added ginger or nutmeg to the mix. Jam should be 60% sugar to make sure that it does preserve the fruit and I used my sugar thermometer to make sure that it would set well, getting it to a temperature of 105 oC. I made four jars of jam and as I made some lemon curd a few weeks ago too that’s enough to keep us going for a while as we no longer have ravenous boys at home to feed.