Maeshowe on Orkney

Ever since I realised that Maeshowe existed I’ve wanted to go there as I’ve always had an interest in Neolithic (Stone Age) monuments and their significance to the winter/summer solstices. Maeshowe is aligned with the winter solstice and the sun shines onto the back wall of the tomb then – if it is a sunny day of course! As you can see, from a distance Maeshowe is a green mound, Orkney is full of such mounds but only a tiny amount of them have been excavated – exciting stuff. If I lived there I’d be tempted to get my trowel out, especially as one woman told me that every time she dug in her garden she found something ancient and interesting.

Maeshowe Mound

You can see a photo of the interior here.
You have to go on an escorted tour to get into Maeshowe and unfortunatley they don’t let you take any photos of the inside of it, not that there is much room to do that anyway. The tomb is 5,000 years old but in more modern times, 1153, some Vikings broke into it to shelter from a snowstorm which lasted for days and they filled in the time by carving runes on the walls, you can read more about that incident here.
Maeshowe Mound

Below is a photo of the entrance and you have to bend almost double for about six yards/metres in a tunnel before you reach the interior.
Maeshowe Chamber  entrance  ce

The land around Maeshowe has cows grazing all around it and one American father pointed out to his wee boy that a calf was getting a drink of milk from its mother – he said: These are happy cows. I don’t think they had ever seen anything so rural before.

The photo below is looking over from Maeshowe to the Stones of Stenness and the Ness of Brodgar.

Stenness and Brodgar 2

There’s a lot more information on Maeshowe here if you’re interested.

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

Winter Solstice cover

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher was first published in 2000 and it was the last book that she wrote as she retired from writing then although she lived for for quite a few years after that.

I’ve read quite a few of Rosamunde Pilcher’s books and I suppose they come under the category of comfort read, although in this one there is a tragedy, but it doesn’t involve any characters that the reader gets very involved with.

Elfrida has retired and moved from London to a small cottage in Hampshire where she intends to supplement her income by making cushions and home furnishings and selling them on to a posh London shop. She makes a good job of settling into her new life and making good friends in the area, she has a gorgeous rescue dog called Horace as a companion, but there’s no doubt that the one person who is most important to Elfrida is her neighbour Oscar, but he’s already married with a young daughter.

Circumstances lead to Oscar having to move back to the north of Scotland where he had been brought up and Elfrida gives up her comfortable life to join him there, and so begins a sort of tour of various houses in that area. In fact I felt that it was a bit like reading one of those glossy homes magazines. Some of the properties mentioned were definitely in need of refurbishment and others were very desireable indeed.

I feel that Pilcher had decided to modernise her writing a bit for the new millenium. One of the main characters is a woman who has had a long term affair with a married man and it has come to an end. I can’t be sure, because it’s quite a while since I read any other Rosamunde Pilcher books but I don’t think she had previously had a main character who had had an affair with a married man. I think in most romances a woman like that would have been seen as a bit of a wicked witch and not the main character.

In fact towards the end of this book something happens (you know me, I don’t want to say too much) and probably a lot of people would think that it is just too unlikely but – hold on to your hats girls – some husbands/widowers DO replace their wives after only a couple of months of their death, well they do in Kirkcaldy anyway. I know, I have said too much! Anyway, Winter Solstice is an enjoyable jaunt from Hampshire via London and on up to the wilds of Creagan which is north of Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland, and you can go on a tour of the places mentioned in the book, have a look here if you’re interested. There’s romance a-plenty too.

You can see some images of Creagan here.

I read this one for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge 2016 and also for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge

My Snowy Garden

Brrr! This is what I woke up to this morning.

snow

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!

Ring Out Solstice Bells by Jethro Tull

Happy Solstice – Do you feel like singing along?

Now is the solstice of the year
Winter is the glad song that you hear
Seven maids move in seven time
Have the lads up ready in a line
Ring out these bells Ring out. Ring solstice bells. Ring solstice bells

Join together ‘neath the mistletoe
By the holy oak whereon it grows
Seven druids dance in seven time
Sing the song the bells call loudly chiming
Ring out these bells, ring out. Ring solstice bells. Ring solstice bells

Praise be to the distant sister sun
Joyful as the silver planets run
Seven maids move in seven time
Sing the song the bells call loudly chiming
Ring out these bells, ring out. Ring solstice bells. Ring solstice bells
Ring out, ring out those solstice bells. Ring out, ring out those solstice bells.

Praise be to the distant sister sun
Joyful as the silver planets run
Seven maids move in seven time
Sing the song the bells call loudly chiming
Ring out these bells, ring out. Ring solstice bells. Ring solstice bells
Ring on, ring out. Ring on, ring out. Ring on, ring out. Ring on, ring out.

This is actually from 1976, the year we got married.

Winter Solstice

No, this blogpost isn’t about the Rosamunde Pilcher book of that name which I still haven’t bought. It is the Winter Solstice today, that is the shortest day of the year, and really I always think that we should be celebrating the event instead of waiting another few days and celebrating Christmas. But if you have kids you have to stick with the Santa Claus stuff. We did tell our kids that Santa was dead now and people just pretended. Honestly it didn’t do them any harm and they enjoyed their Christmas just as much, but I did get nasty looks from other mums at the nursery. Silly them!

In good old Pagan Celtic times this was our winter festival, something to look forward to. Anyway the 21st of December always cheers me up because I hate the dark days of winter, when it begins to get dark at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and it’s dark by 4 o’clock.

After the solstice the daylight begins to get a teeny wee bit longer day by day and even although the worst of the winter weather is probably still ahead of us, (but surely not this year) I’m always able to look forward to the lighter, longer days.

This year the solstice is extra special because there is also a lunar eclipse which you can read about here.

Happy Winter Solstice!