Christmas Books

So continuing our no nonsense so no disappointments way of ‘doing’ Christmas gifts, I also got quite a few books which I had seen over the past couple of months and asked Jack to buy them for me and put them away for Christmas. I always forget exactly what has been bought so it’s the only way of getting a good surprise as far as I’m concerned.

The Grateful Sparrow cover

Here are a few of them, these ones are all children’s books:

The Grateful Sparrow by Angela Thirkell.

This is a children’s book – possibly the first she ever wrote and the only children’s one – and is apparently quite difficult to get a hold of but Jack got it for me at a very reasonable price from ebay. My copy is a 1935 publication and has 24 illustrations by Ludwig Richter. It does say that the tales are taken from the German by Angela Thirkell and the dedication is to the memory of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Berthold Auerbach and their translators, known and unknown. So it would seem that this book is more of a compilation put together by Angela Thirkell, rather than actually written by her. The illustrations are quite nice in a Germanic sort of way.

The Story of Peter Pan cover

The Story of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

I have quite a collection of various Peter Pan editions, including a Mabel Lucy Atwell illustrated one, but when I saw this one at Ingliston fair, I snapped it up for all of £2. It’s illustrated by Alice B. Woodward, whom I hadn’t heard of but I like her work, especially the front cover. It was first issued in 1914 but my edition is from 1951.

Butter Scotia cover

Butterscotia (A Cheap Trip to Fairyland) by Edward Abbott Parry and illustrated by Archie MacGregor. I first saw this book in an antiquarian bookshop near York Minster but it was £30 which is more than I would normally pay for a book. I had a look on the internet and got it a lot cheaper. I feel slightly guilty about it because if the bookshop has disappearred the next time I’m in York I’ll feel that I’ve contributed to putting them out of business. But on the other hand we don’t have money to fling about and it doesn’t seem to be available as an ebook although I’ve just realised that it has been reprinted in paperback fairly recently. It is obviously influenced by Alice in Wonderland and seems to be good fun from what I’ve read of it. My copy is an 1896 one, complete with pull out map.

More Christmas books tomorrow.

Kirriemuir, Peter Pan and J.M. Barrie

As I said a while ago, we drove north up to Kirriemur in the county of Angus in the last week of our holidays. We’ve visited the wee red sandstone town a few times in the past when our boys were wee and reading them Peter Pan kicked off an interest in J.M. Barrie’s writing in general. This whitewashed building is the ‘tenement’ which the Barrie family lived in, upstairs on the right hand side. He was actually born in this building. They had what is called in Scotland a room and kitchen. The kitchen is a largish room with a cooking range of some sort and usually what is called a bed recess, which is an alcove designed to fit a box bed into. Probably all the kids in a family would have slept in that bed. Today a kitchen like that would be described as a ‘family room’ as it was multi functional. The ‘room’ usually had a bed recess too and the parents slept in that one. Sometimes the ‘room’ doubled up as a sort of parlour during the day. There were eight children in the Barrie family and what with all of them and the noise of the weaving looms, it must have been a bit of a nightmarish existence.

J.M. Barrie's home from street

The ground floor of the building was taken up by a huge weaving loom as Barrie’s father was a weaver, at least he didn’t have far to travel to his work! This photo is actually of the back of the building.

J.M. Barrie's childhood homedoor 2

Opposite the doorway is the washhouse which would have been shared with neighbours I think. This wee building was the inspiration for the Wendy house in Peter Pan. It doubled up as a play house for the children in the area.

washhouse in Kirriemuir

The photo below is fuzzy but you can see that inside the washhouse there was a boiler in the right hand corner, to heat up the water. It still has some of the wash necessities of the day. I can actually remember using a wash board when I was young – and I wasn’t in a skiffle group!

a washhouse interior

This Peter Pan statue is fairly new to the town.

Peter Pan statue

Not one but TWO clocks in the town square. Have you noticed that when I take photos of places it always seems to be about 4 o’clock, we never seem to be able to get out of the house until after lunchtime! I used to blame the kids for this but I don’t have that excuse now!

Kirriemuir town square

Kirriemuir is quite unusual as it was built mainly with red sandstone. It’s a very small, quiet town but in the past it has been heaving with trouble. Some of those cobble stones have been dug up and hurled through windows during times of strikes by weavers when there were mobs in the streets. It was all before Barrie’s time but he got the stories from his mother and used them in his novels.

a street in Kirriemuir.

Kirriemuir is very old fashioned as you can see and to me it feels quite remote from everything. The inhabitants probably do most of their shopping in Dundee or even Aberdeen. It does have small independently owned shops though like a sweetie shop which from the smell of it makes the sweets on the property. I stopped myself from going in though, due to being on a healthy eating kick but we couldn’t get past the ice-cream shop – it was worth it, very good!

Barrie often went back to Kirriemuir and took friends with him too. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote that he was sure that the folks of Kirriemuir had no idea that Barrie was really famous in London. I suspect though that it was just that they didn’t want to make too much fuss of him, in case he got a big head. He may have come from humble beginnings but he ended up being very wealthy and famous. When he wrote Peter Pan he didn’t need the money so he donated all of his royalties to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and they still benefit from the royalties despite the fact that it’s more than 75 years since the book was written.

Although nowadays Barrie only seems to be remembered as the author of Peter Pan he was also an incredibly successful playwright. I suppose the best known of them is The Admirable Crichton and he also wrote novels. Luckily Project Gutenberg has quite a lot for free download here. The Little Minister is a good place to start if you want to read some of his novels.

If you’re interested in finding out more about J.M.B then you might want to try to get a hold of The Story of J.M.B by Denis Mackail. Published in 1941, it’s a very good read and as Mackail was Barrie’s godson, he obviously knew him well. In fact quite a few of Barrie’s godchildren became authors. Angela Thirkell was Mackail’s sister and of course there’s the du Maurier connection too.

Glamis Castle grounds

The long driveway which leads to Glamis Castle is flanked by fields of cattle, if you have to be a cow this is one of the best places to be one I think. Good grass, lovely trees to hide from the sun, when we get it, not a bad life – for a while anyway.

cows at Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

This fountain is just beyond the field of cows and if you’re in the castle you would be looking out on to it from the front windows, unfortunately it wasn’t up and running, which is a pity because I love fountains and for some reason there aren’t enough of them in Britain. Nice trees though, the whole area is well planted tree wise. As you can see from the blue rope there was some sort of festival going on at Glamis and they were busy preparing the grounds for it.

A fountain at Glamis Castle

Going beyond the castle you come to this dinky wee bridge which I just had to have a look at, bridges being something else I’m keen on. We never did find out what was over the bridge as you can see you aren’t meant to go over it. There were a few cars coming over it in the other direction, belonging to the Strathmore family I suppose.

Stone bridge at Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

These two statues are of Stuart kings. This one is James VI of Scotland – he was Mary, Queen of Scots’ son and when Elizabeth I of England died with no heir, he was next in line for the English throne. He’s known as James I in England and he is probably best known nowadays as the man who had the bible translated into English – hence it being known as the King James bible.

King James VI of Scotland

This one is King Charles I (Stuart)

King Charles I

He was a bit ‘thrawn’ as we say and his determination to hold on to all of his power led to him having his head chopped off which more or less ended the English Civil War (which actually spread all over Britain.) It was about fifteen years later the Restoration brought his son, Charles II, back as king.

Captain Hook from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is traditionally modelled on Charles I.

Hard Winters, the Tories and Narnia

I bet you don’t think that the three things in the title have anything in common, but they do, well I think they do.

I caught the back end of one of the Narnia episodes which were on TV during the Christmas holidays, it was the wicked queen doing her stuff. We used to be steeped in Narnia here as Gordon my youngest son was obsessed with the books and videos at one point. It always reminded me of the winters of 1979/80/81 which were terribly cold, worse than anything that I had ever experienced before.

When we moved down to Essex the diesel in the removal lorry’s tank froze and the men had to light a fire underneath it to thaw it out, scary stuff. This all coincided with the Conservative party getting into power – in the shape of the dreaded and evil Maggie Thatcher. So you can see why she reminds me of the wicked witch – and vice versa. Evil was stalking the land and so freezing cold winters came along to torment us, just as in Narnia when evil had the upper-hand.

So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the same thing has happened again as we now have the self-confessed ‘sons of Margaret Thatcher’ at the helm. As before, the freezing winter came just before the Tories got into power, when evil was gaining strength. I predict that as we are in the middle of our second freezing winter on the trot, we’ll probably have another one next year too. I blame all those Old Etonian millionaires. But I’m also reminded of Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes. Prime Minister Cameron and all his Old Etonian pals in the Cabinet are just exactly like the dastardly Flashman and his chums, except that was set at Rugby. I suppose one English public school bunch is much the same as another.

When J.M. Barrie decided to make his Peter Pan character Captain Hook an evil Old Etonian he obviously knew exactly what he was doing. But I cheer myself up by remembering what was in store for Captain Hook!

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