Still Reading Scotland’s Bookshelf

Windy.  Stormy.  Occasional hailstones.

Bus # 49 did not stop but proceeded to the regular stop, down the road.

Four writers, madly running.

Self the last, of course.

Nevertheless, made it.

Since a few days ago, no internet at the Castle.

Back to Bonnyrigg Library.

Plead with editors:  “I am on a residency!  I have no internet!  In fact, I can’t even listen to my voice mail messages!”

Answer, thus far:  resounding silence!

Oh well!

Still reading from Scotland’s Bookshelf.  Book of the day, Charles Cumming’s The Trinity Six, a novel about spies.

Cumming was born in 1971.  He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1994.  His author bio states:  “In the summe of 1995,  Charles was approached for recruitment by the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).”

The book begins with a quote from Harold McMillan (former British PM):

You know, you should never catch a spy.  Discover him and then control him, but never catch him.  A spy causes far more trouble when he’s caught.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Bonnyrigg Library, Midlothian: “Scotland’s Bookshelf”

There is a constantly changing display of Scottish authors in the (very wee) Bonnyrigg Library, called “Scotland’s Bookshelf.”  Some of the authors are familiar to self, most of them are not.

These are the books self saw arrayed on the shelves when she dropped by the library today, the third Thursday of June 2012:

  • Alan Bissett, Death of a Ladies’ Man
  • John Burke, Hang Time
  • Val McDermid, Cleanskin
  • Alexander McCall Smith, The Importance of Being Seven
  • Maggie O’Farrell, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
  • Lin Anderson, Final Cut
  • Irvine Welsh, Reheated Cabbage:  Tales of Chemical Degeneration

Self scanned the first pages of all the books.  The language is almost universally salty.  How self has come to relish the emotionally expressive Scottish voice!

Today it was pouring rain.  Self wended her way to Edinburgh again, this time in the company of a fellow writer.  We took the Underground tour of Mary King’s Close (Five Stars!  So wonderfully atmospheric!  Scottish tour guides are the best!), then had a scrumptious lunch at the Scottish Cafe (inside the Scottish National Gallery).  We had haddock and green salad with beets and Scottish cheddar, then had a ridiculous dessert of raspberries and cream.  The dessert was served in a tall clear glass and A and self spooned out the cream onto flat plates — which was kinda awkward, but did not have any significant impact on the delectability of the item.

Then we looked at some Piranesi, some Hals, some Monet, some John Singer Sargent (The large painting of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, circa 1892, was simply stunning)

Then we caught the # 31 bus back to Hawthornden, which was a great idea at first because there were plenty of seats on the upper deck.  But there was a very unhappy child who kept up a constant screaming all the way from Edinburgh to Bonnyrigg, and as it was pouring rain and there was tremendous traffic, everyone’s nerves were quite on edge.

But anyhoo, self is now in the Bonnyrigg Library, and this little place is also a nest, much like her room back in the Castle.

She decides to begin reading an Iain Banks short story, “The Wasp Factory.”  It begins:

“I had decided I would try to murder Esmeralda before she and her parents even arrived for their holiday.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Third Wednesday of June 2012

The Daily Lunch Basket

The soup today was ham and vegetables in clear broth —  yummm!!!

“The Nest” at around noon: Self is hard at work today!

Today, self received a contract to publish her novella as an e-book.

Happy happy joy joy!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Out and About in Edinburgh

The sun was shining!

It was a glorious day!

Self found herself on the bus for Edinburgh!  (At least, that’s where she ended up getting off.  When she got ON the bus, many hours ago, she thought she was heading for the beach at Portobello!)

She found herself walking to Queen Street, and dropped by the National Potrait Gallery again! (Their coffee shop has the most yummy desserts!  Today self tried a coconut and raspberry macaroon!  She also got a cup of black coffee —  the cups are huge, about double the size of  Peet’s back home!)

Then she walked and walked and walked.

She found herself in a most verdant park.

She saw imposing monuments (of Sir Walter Scott, among others)!

Sir Walter Scott, Princes Street

She saw the Olympic Rings, affixed just below Edinburgh Castle!

She saw a huge department store called Jenners!  Which had a 50% off sale on women’s handbags and wallets!

A petite woman in a headscarf was going crazy over Italian bags! (She only looked at the white handbags, self noticed)

Another woman was trying on wide-brimmed black hats adorned with pink roses!

There was a band regaling passersby in the park next to the Scottish National Gallery!

Self saw the BIGGEST, absolutely the BIGGEST pigeons she has ever seen (At least, self assumed they were pigeons, since they were white and had wings.  But, since self lost her contac lenses two weeks ago —  in fact, only two days after arriving in Edinburgh —  she can’t be 100% sure that they actually WERE pigeons!)

Afterwards, since self was a wee bit fatigued, she treated herself to a cab to Dalkeith.  The cab driver was covered in tattoos of his favorite soccer team, the Edinburgh Hearts!  He told self that he coughs up 385 pounds every year for a season ticket!

Self inquired if he knew where Fettes (brother-in-law’s boarding school) was, and he told her how to get there by bus (some other time)

She heard bagpipes!

She saw a Kentucky Fried Chicken a few blocks down from Blackwell’s on Nicolson Street!

She saw the Surgeon’s Hall again!

Edinburgh is so beautiful.

Afterwards, self decided to drop by the Bonnyrigg Public Library before heading back to the Castle.  There, she bumped into Joan, one of the other writers.  We hailed a cab driven by Gina, the only full-time woman cab driver in Midlothian.  Then self managed to add a few more pages to the story she began writing two days ago.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Room, Self Loves

“The Nest”

Since the rain never let up, not once all day, self read and read and read.

She’s almost to the end of The Beautiful and the Damned.  She wonders why she should care about two young people who’ve spent two years married to each other and miserable (She wonders why anyone only 26 years of age should be miserable?  When there is so much time to “do something”?)

In the section she’s reading, the hero goes off and enlists.  He’s riding on a train.  This novel is full of wonderful set-pieces.

She thinks the parts about the grandfather dying (This is not a spoiler: he’s been dying since page one) and the revealing of the contents of his will were excellent, shattering.

Self’s next book, perhaps a rather unlikely choice given that self is where she is, is Alice Waters and Chez Panisse.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

3rd Saturday of June 2012: WRITING

Weather today:  wet.

Self doesn’t mind.

Since about a week ago, self has become quite impervious to vagaries like cold and damp.

A fine mist shrouds the trees.

Tally so far:  two short stories.  One is a piece of historical fiction, which she found she quite enjoys writing, if only in small bursts.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

A Constellation of Opening Sentences From Barbara Ker Wilson’s SCOTTISH FOLK TALES AND LEGENDS

(Self had to look up the words brae and croft in the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to Scotland.  A brae is a hill, and a croft is a “small plot of farmland with dwellings.”)

  • Before the first sailors turned the prows of their ships seawards to discover what lay beyond their own homelands, the King and Queen of the sea dwelt below the waves in peace and happiness. (“MacCodrum of the Seals”)
  • Ercildourne is a hamlet that lies in the shadow of the Eildon Hills. (“Thomas the Rhymer”)
  • In Kintyre there is a great cave whose black mouth yawns wide among the cliffs of that rocky coast-line. (“The Piper of Keil”)
  • There was once a fisherman of Kintyre called Iain MacRae, who lived at Ardelve. (“The Blue Cap”)
  • This is a tale of Michael Scot, the famous wizard of Selkirk, who was namely for the wonderful deeds he committed beyond men’s comprehension; he who split the Eildon Hills in twain. (“How Michael Scot Went to Rome”)
  • Fair Janet was the daughter of a lowland Earl who lived in a grey castle beside green meadows. (“Tam Lin”)
  • There is a legend that long ago the Picts knew the secret of brewing heather-ale; a secret so precious that it was known to only one family, and passed down from father to eldest son. (“The Secret of Heather-Ale”)
  • For over a thousand years, Dunvegan Castle, which stands in the west of Skye, has been the home of the MacLeods of MacLeod.
  • On a day long ago, when the bracken sprang green and tender on the hills, a fine gentleman rode over the braeside to woo a fair lady. (“Whippety Stourie”)
  • In a grey stone farm-house that lay huddled in a valley below the heather-covered hills, there once lived a farmer who owned a fine sheep — or a White Pet, as they called a sheep in his part of Scotland. (“The White Pet”)
  • Sandray is a little island in the Outer Hebrides, set south of Barra and surrounded by the wide Atlantic Ocean. (“The Faery and the Kettle”)
  • When the warm days come and the sun begins to burn the bracken brown, according to their age-old custom the Highland crofters take their cattle to summer pastures in the hills, re-opening the shielings where they will stay until it is time to return home again. (“Morag and the Water Horse”)

The Times (Scotland Edition): Film Reviews

Kate Muir gave Robert Pattinson’s new movie, “Cosmopolis,” three out of five stars.

Kevin Maher gave Tom Cruise’s new movie, “Rock of Ages,” four out of five stars.

Self doesn’t know whether she’ll see “Rock of Ages” when she gets back to California, but she does think Maher writes well.  So here’s the opening paragraph of his review:

Tom Cruise.  He glides through the filmic decades on autopilot.  The megawatt smile.  The sharp, barking laugh.  And the aquiline profile that holds a blinkless look of end-of-the-world intensity.  He’s the push-button hero guy, the Mission guy, the Last Samurai, and one of the Few Good Men.  And yet, very occasionally, Tom Cruise gives a jolting performance of such idiosyncratic verve and intensity that you are reminded of what he’s actually hiding under the hood, and of where he can go, given the right material.  Stacee Jaxx in “Rock of Ages” is one of those performances.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


The Olympic Torch Went Through Lasswade Yesterday, 9:30 a.m.

Apologies, self wasn’t quick enough to catch the runner with the torch.

She did see him, though, wending down the hill, preceded by a whole lot of vans and trucks and policemen.

It was a gorgeous morning.

There were throngs of people, and little kids hoisted on their dads’ shoulders, and several dogs Read the rest of this entry »

3rd Friday of June 2012

2nd Floor, National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh

It rained the entire day.

Self fled from the Castle, headed straight for Edinburgh.

Oh, heart-stopping sight of the castle from Prince Street!  Oh the ambient light over the river, etc etc etc!  How happy it made self to find herself amidst the citizens of this lovely city, all scurrying about, completely undaunted by the cold, wet, chilly, BRRR BRRR!

After all, what’s a little wet to a true, stout-hearted Scotsman?  It’ll do self good to have more weather like this!  She needs to toughen up!  She needs to be more like those women striding by in their periwinkle and purple macs, and their UGG boots, and their fur-trimmed parkas, and their skinny jeans, and their huge, slouchy bags!

Self thinks she will never see, a sight as lovely as . . .

Wake up, self!  Wake up!

Stop reciting poetry, and get back to work!

Yes, self eventually did wend her way homeward, for another lovely dinner provided by Alistair, plus more fresh strawberries and cream.  As self told the husband, she’s probably gained at least five lbs. already.  Which information of course made the man inordinately happy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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