Recent Book Purchases

Yet again, I had banned myself from the library to concentrate on my own books, but a visit to the adjoining museum shop to buy a card ended up with me sloping into the library and of course I was seduced by some new books, but it was the unplanned book buying which was quite spectacular. In January it seems that every time I went out of the house I came back with books which I wasn’t even looking for – honest!

A visit to an antiques centre ended up with me buying the lovely Folio editions of the Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson. I have them all but just in paperback so I couldn’t resist these, especially as they were so incredibly cheap. I’m not going to tell you exactly how cheap, I don’t wish to cause pain!

A mooch around some Edinburgh charity shops ended up with me buying the Penguin crimes.
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
The Mask of Glass by Holly Roth
Cork on the Water by McDonald Hastings

I also bought It Ends with Revelations by Dodie Smith. Has anyone read this one? I’ve only read I Capture the Castle, which I really enjoyed. Then when I saw a pristine hardback of All Our Worldly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky I had to buy that too.

In the Scottish bookshop in Dunfermline I couldn’t pass up on
Children of the Tempest by Neil Munro and
The Selected Travel Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson called Dreams of Elsewhere.

Taking my library books back I swore I wasn’t going to borrow any more books, well I stuck to that but I couldn’t help just glancing at the bookshelves which hold the books for sale, Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym jumped out at me – really it did!

A trip to St Andrews saw me bringing back:
The Angel in the Corner by Monica Dickens, I haven’t read anything by her for getting on for 40 years, hard to belive it but true.
I also bought The McFlannels See It Through which is the second book in a humorous Scottish wartime series, but I don’t have the first one yet.

A trip to Linlithgow saw me buying:
The Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat. It’s a children’s classic which I’ve never got around to reading. Of course it’s set in the English Civil War, which historians now recognise involved the whole of Britain, some of them are now calling it the War of the Three Kingdoms.

Also Nan of Northcote by Doris A Pocock, which is set in a girls school and was published in 1929. It cost me all of £1 and it could be absolute garbage but I love the cover.

My favourite and most expensive purchase was:
Scottish Gardens by Sir Herbert Maxwell, published in 1908 and it has lovely illustrations of some gardens which I’ve visited. I’m sure some of them don’t exist any more but I’m going to track them down and visit the ones I can, to see how they have changed over the years. The book is a beauty and was still a bargain, it’s for sale on the internet for much more than I paid for it. I’ve also discovered that the author was Gavin Maxwell’s grandfather. When I was a teenager I loved his nature books which are set in Scotland.

As you can see, I’ve got to get on with my reading!


Inveraray is definitely a highland town. Actually, the road signs are in Gaelic long before you get there. That’s something which has changed since my childhood. It’s politically correct to push Gaelic like crazy now but I don’t know anyone who can speak it despite the fact that loads of money has been put into promoting the language.

I was really surprised to see The Vital Spark tied up in the harbour, which is really just at the end of the main street.

Neil Munro wrote The Para Handy stories which featured The Vital Spark and her crew. The tv programmes were very popular in the 60s when I was a wee girl. They did an updated version recently but obviously they didn’t have the same nostalgic charm.
You can see some of the oldies on you tube.

The Daft Days by Neil Munro

I was raking around in the attic the other day looking for a particular book which I didn’t find, but I did come across The Daft Days which I vaguely remember buying from a second-hand bookshop a while ago. It’s a favourite pastime of mine – haunting old bookshops but sadly there aren’t so many of them around nowadays.

Anyway, I hadn’t got around to reading it and decided to rectify the matter. In fact I had never read anything by Neil Munro before and I didn’t really know what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised by the book.

It was written in 1907 and is the story of Lennox Dyce from Chicago who travels to Scotland to live with her aunts and an uncle after the death of her parents. The first surprise for the adults is the fact that Lennox is a girl as they had been expecting the arrival of a boy. Mind you I used to know a girl called Lennox, so it isn’t unknown. The girl goes by the name of Bud and turns out to be such an open, friendly and charming wee soul that she takes the small town by storm and is soon a great favourite with the townsfolk.

She goes on to change the lives of the inhabitants in various ways and also to broaden their outlook on life. Bud grows up to become an actress in London and is the pride of her Scottish home town. Quite a feat when you consider the narrow Presbyterianism which pervades the place.

It’s a long time since I read Anne of Green Gables but if I am remembering correctly, The Daft Days is a similar kind of story, only set in Scotland. It ‘s an enjoyable homely sort of a read, I suppose you could say that it is couthie.

I know that at one point there was a vogue for books set in Scotland and there was a group of authors known as ‘Kailyard’ writers and I think that this might come under that category. It must have been written around the time that J.M. Barrie was writing his Tommy and Grizel and The Little Minister sorts of books. It’s a pity that people only remember him for Peter Pan now as his other books are well worth reading.

So I’ll have to find some more Neil Munro books to try out. If you want to know more about him you should visit the Neil Munro Society.

I would really like to know why the cover of Gilian, the Dreamer is a self-portrait by Archibald Skirving, which I recognised immediately. In what way, if any, are the two connected?