Outlander/Cross Stitch

outlanderI first read Outlander – or Cross Stitch as it was called in the UK – back in 1992. A wonderful mix of romance, adventure and history set in Scotland, I loved it and recommended it to friends and family. I even wrote to Diana Gabaldon asking for an interview for the writers’ group I belong to, The Alberta Romance Writers’ Association, and she was extremely generous with her time and answers.

So when I heard it was finally being adapted as a TV series by Starz, I was both excited and a little anxious. Would they do it justice? We’re now two episodes in, so what are my feelings so far?

Here’s what I like.

1) I’m so happy that a story set in Scotland has actually been filmed in Scotland – unlike some other famous ‘Scottish’ movies I could name. The scenery is stunning and I’ve had a lot of fun figuring out the locations. If you’re planning on visiting Scotland and would like to check out the Outlander sites, even Visit Scotland has got in on the act and created an Outlander map.

2) I think all three main characters, Clare, Jamie and Frank/Jack have been very well cast and are doing a great job. And I’m thrilled to see Gary Lewis, one of my favourite character actors, playing Colum.

3) The fact that they’re sticking to the book. It was interesting to hear the producer say that the series has been made for the book’s fans. Having dabbled in the world of screenwriting myself I understand the huge difference between writing for the page and writing for the screen, so I appreciate that the writers have stuck to the book as closely as they have. But then, they had good source material to start with, didn’t they!

As for the ‘Meh’?

1) The Scottish twee. Admittedly the major audience for this series will be the US and I feel what’s being presented is how they imagine Scotland, and Scottish people, to be. However, as a Scot, there have been places where I have squirmed uncomfortably. There was one scene in the first episode where it felt like Dougal and the Scottish Dwarves… all named Goofy. And as for some of the accents..! And lines. A patient not liking ‘being stuck with a needle’? That’s not an expression I ever heard until I moved to the western side of the pond. But again, the major audience will be American and they might not be familiar with the term ‘injection’ or ‘jag’, so I’m probably just being picky.

2) The nudity. I’m not talking about the sex scenes, but the ones with Clare dressing and Jamie’s sister being attacked in the second episode. I don’t like to think I’m a prude – although maybe I am. This series was advertised as Scotland’s Game of Thrones, and for that reason I know of 3 men in particular who tuned in.  One gave up half way through the first episode, the second at the end of the first hour, and the third has vowed to watch no more having persevered through the second episode. Now, there may be many men who continue to watch and love the series, but my feeling is that the main audience is and will continue to be female. Do women really want to see so much female nudity? Is it necessary to the scene(s) or is it exploiting the actresses? People might argue that I feel this way because, ‘You’re just jealous because you’re older and will never have a body like that again’. Fair enough if that’s what they believe, but because I’m older, and have been around the block a few times, I think I can recognize exploitation when I see it.

But as I said above, I’m being picky.

If you loved the books, there’s waaay more right with the series than is wrong – you can’t please all the people all the time –  so I’ll definitely keep watching. But my advice to anyone would be ‘Read the book first’! Always, read the book.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Outlander/Cross Stitch and the job of bringing it to the screen.

 

 

 

D-Day +1 June 7th, 1944

I found Friday’s remembrances of the 70th anniversary of D-Day very moving, but perhaps for many of us the story that stood out was the journey 89 year-old Bernard Jordan took from his care home in Hove to join his colleagues in France.  It’s already been nicknamed The Great Escape, and I’m sure within a few weeks there will be a film in the pipeline.

Quite rightly, the emphasis this weekend was on the veterans and thousands upon thousands of young men who died on those beaches and in the months following the invasion. But it got me to wondering about the news the British people received, listening to the radio or reading the papers to find out what was happening to their loved ones.

Once again, I turned to The Glasgow Herald of June 7th, 1944 for some insights and gathered together a collection of tidbits that appealed to me.

Whereas other papers’ headlines screamed Invasion, with only 8 pages available (because of paper rationing) The Glasgow Herald wasted little space on pictures and remained as understated as ever. On the front page were the usual blackout times (Glasgow 11.57pm until 4.34am) and notifications of births, marriages and deaths. The current entertainment available at the city’s theatres was listed (including the Half-Past Eight Show mentioned in last week’s blog) as well as a programme of musical concerts in city parks.

But the Invasion did make its presence known on the front page with notices from city churches informing the faithful of special prayers and services for ‘our King and County and Allies and for the Forces now invading Europe’. Glasgow Cathedral offered two services at noon and 3pm for ‘those engaged in the Second Front Operation’.

The Late News column referenced a German report which talked of ‘grim fighting’ between Havre and Cherbourg being the ‘bloodiest of the day’ with several hundred Canadian paratroopers wiped out or forced to surrender.

German Overseas Radio denied any fighting in Caen. ‘Mr Churchill’s reference about fighting in Caen is untrue. No enemy troops have penetrated into the city, therefore no fighting has taken place in Caen.’

Page two carried the Colonial Secretary being forced to deny a ‘silly and harmful story’ which had had much circulation, particularly in America, to the effect that America was being charged for every palm tree they destroyed in battles for the recovery of British possessions.

When talking about the history of invasion in Europe, one columnist pointed out that Caen had been the HQ of William The Conqueror before he turned his sights on England in 1066.

Eisenhower apparently carried seven old coins in his pocket – one being an ancient five guinea piece.  He is said to have given these mascots a rub before the Italian invasion and everyone hoped that the mascots would do as good a job again.

Regarding the Invasion of Italy and France, it had been decided by Roosevelt and Churchill at the Casablanca Conference in 1943 that an invasion of the west would be deferred until the Allies had cleared the Mediterranean and knocked out Italy.

Page 3 contained Scottish news with detailed Invasion news starting on page 4.

The Invasion was originally scheduled for Monday June 5th, but postponed for 24 hours because of bad weather.

German Radio admitted the Allies had a foothold 10-15 miles long and nearly a mile deep in France.

Allied landings also took place on Guernsey and Jersey in the Channel Islands.

Hitler was reported to have taken charge of the military response to the invasion.

Between midnight and 8am on June 6th, an estimated 31,000 Allied airmen flew over France. 1,300 Fortresses and Liberators began their attack at 6am ending at 8.30am.

Priority was being given for troops’ mail so that both the men in the front line and their relatives and friends at home should receive regular deliveries of letters.

One hour before they left for the beaches, the troops enjoyed a meal of pork chops and plum duff. Each solder was then given a ‘landing ration’ –  a bag of chocolate and biscuits and cigarettes for ‘consumption while waiting’.

Civilian workmen and villagers who had seen anything of the preparations at an American airfield were detained in the camp by the authorities for 48 hours until news of the landings were released.

125,000,000 maps were used by the US invasion forces.

Eisenhower broadcast a Call to the People of Europe:  The hour of your liberation is approaching. All patriots, men and women, young and old, have a part to play in the achievement of final victory.

General Montgomery wished the troops ‘Good Hunting in Europe’.

And then, on pages 7 and 8 it was back to normal with commodity markets, situations vacant, property, livestock and farms for sale.  A five-room terraced house with kitchen and scullery could be bought for 800 pounds. So much for the biggest invasion force the world had ever seen.

If you ever get the opportunity to watch the film The Longest Day, I highly recommend it. It’s a comprehensive view of the events of June 6th, 1944 from all sides involved.

 

 

 

Ma Wee Gas Mask

Before I start a post, I usually have a clear idea of what I want to write about. However sometimes I can get pulled off track and this evening was one of those occasions. So this is going to be a long post, but if you hang in, there’s a rather sweet Youtube video at the very end!

With the 70th Anniversary of D-Day rapidly approaching on June 6th, I thought it would be interesting to look at The Glasgow Herald from June 2nd, 1944 and see if I could find any hint of the approaching invasion.

As noted in previous blogs, paper rationing meant each issue was comprised of only 8 pages. The Glasgow blackout began at 11.52pm and ended at 4.28am, a far cry from six months earlier when it lasted from 5.25pm until 9.17am the following morning!

As always, the war news was buried in the middle of the paper, so there were all kinds of fascinating articles to read through first.

Films showing in Glasgow included:
Lifeboat – Tallulah Bankhead.
Jack London – Susan Hayward
Madame Curie – Greer Garson
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Gary Cooper
The Cross of Lorraine – Gene Kelly
Life and Death of Colonel Blimp – Deborah Kerr

A list of legacies given to The Western Infirmary – remember this was 4 years before the NHS came in to being.

Mr Herman Anton Andrews, a London banker, bought the Scottish islands of South Uist, Benbecula and Eriskay. Following the purchase, the Scottish National Party sent him a letter detailing their concern that the buying up of large tracts of land by those operating from London and other centres outside the borders was contrary to the interests and people of of Scotland. (Given that Scotland is voting on Independence in September this year, I this particularly apt.)

And then came the war headlines.

Germans ‘getting a licking’ in Italy.

Notification that 47% of US Army troops (3,500,000 men) were stationed overseas.
The US Air Force had 50% of its personnel (2,357,000 men) and more than 50% of their machines stationed overseas.

Allied Gains on the Burma Front.

Three beachhead columns were moving on Rome.

4,000lb bombs were dropped at Roumania’s Iron Gate (where the Danube narrows), reducing German barge traffic and their ability to repair their railways.

Admiral Sir William M James, Chief of Naval Information in London, said the Navy would soon appear again in the public eye. ‘Before long, we shall reach that stage when we begin to launch a great amphibious expedition… We are going to have dramatic moments soon.” So there it was, the hint that something big was in the air.

And then it was back to general news, where one item in particular caught my attention. The Half-Past-Eight Show, starring entertainer Dave Willis was playing at the King’s Theatre.

As a child in the 60s, I remember going with my mother to see The Half-Past-Eight Show starring Dave Willis! I had no idea it had been going for so long. Before the 1930s, it had been the tradition for theatres to close during the summer when the citizens went on holiday. In the early 30s, however, it was decided to produce a high quality summer variety show. It was so successful it became an annual tradition lasting a long – long – time.

I seem to remember one of Dave Willis’s famous songs was about fox-hunting, but I’ve been unable to find any mention it on the internet. If anyone out there has any information, I would love it if you could send it to me.

Another song he sang during the war was Ma Wee Gas Mask.  I was unable to find a video of Dave Willis singing it, but I did find an absolutely charming video.  Enjoy!

In ma wee gas mask
Ah’m working oot a plan
The weans a’ think that Ah’m the bogey man
The girls a’ cry, an’ bring their friends to see
The nicest lookin’ warden in the A.R.P.

When there’s a raid on, ye ought tae hear me cry
‘An aeroplane, an aeroplane awa’ wa up a kye’
They a’ rin helter skelter, bit dinna rin efter me
Ye’ll no get in ma shelter for it’s faur too wee.

Visiting Fort William

I spent an afternoon in Fort William a few weeks ago. I’d recently read an article which said the drive from Glasgow to Mallaig ranked amongst the best in the world – just don’t stop in Fort William. Well… that’s a bit harsh. Given that the town clings to the shores of Loch Linnhe, the surrounding scenery is pretty stunning.

A wee bit of history about Fort William. According to Wikipedia a ‘Fort was constructed to control the population after Oliver Cromwell’s invasion during the English Civil War and then to suppress the Jacobite uprisings of the 18th Century’. Nowadays, the town is more famous for being the end point of The West Highland Way, a 96 mile walk from Milngavie (just outside Glasgow) to Fort William.

highlandway

Whilst there, we visited the West Highland Museum. It’s a great wee museum, covering everything from traditional Highland life to the training of commandos during World War Two. But the highlight for me was The Secret Portrait, a fascinating piece of anamorphic art. (I’d never heard of anamorphic art or illusion before. Basically it’s when an image only reveals itself when viewed from a particular angle.)

bonnycharlieAfter the Jacobite defeat and Bonnie Prince Charlie‘s retreat back to France, the English government banned all things Scottish and any reference to a Stuart king. When toasting ‘The King’ – meaning King William – Jacobites would pass their glass over the fingerbowl in a silent toast to ‘the King over the Water’, but the English soon got wise to that and banned fingerbowls from Scottish tables.

But where there’s a will there’s a way. Anamorphic trays were designed with special metal glasses.  When viewed from a particular angle, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s image appeared on the goblet. Should the ‘enemy’ arrive on the doorstep, the goblet was removed, revealing only a messy looking tray.

I also popped in to St Andrew’s Episcopal Church on the main street. Silent and peaceful, beautiful and welcoming, it’s definitely worth a visit.

.church1church2

Kiel Church and Cemetery – Morvern

The Morvern Peninsula, on the west coast of Scotland, is an isolated and stunningly beautiful part of the world. Because it is so peaceful and wild, you tend to think that probably not much has happened here in the past 1,000 years. But you couldn’t be more wrong. In the days when travel by water was the only effective method of getting from A to B, the Sound of Mull was a ‘motorway’ for vessels sailing up the west coast of Scotland – all the way back to the Vikings and beyond.

The present Kiel Church, which stands on a hill overlooking the Sound of Mull, is only just over 100 years old, but there has probably been a church on this site since the 6th Century. It’s even possible that St Columba himself, who died on Iona, might have visited here.

soundofmull    church

I’m used to cemeteries being flat and ordered. That’s not the case with this graveyard. The ground is rough, the stones – mostly 18th and 19th century – laid out higgledy-piggledy, with many sinking into the ground, leaving only their tips visible.

graveagain    grave1

For such an isolated corner of the country, there’s a lot of interesting history to be found here. A marker has been placed by one monument, commemorating the grave of a soldier who carried a Jacobite banner on Culloden Field.

cullodenTo the side of the church, there is a tiny building which houses the beautiful Carved Stones of Kiel which date from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. These too are gravestones, their size and intricate carving indicating the importance of the people whose graves they once belonged to.

stones1    stones2

If you’re ever in this wonderful part of the world, please take the time to visit Kiel Church, its fascinating cemetery and carved Stones.

 

 

Dougie Maclean – The Scythe Song

I’m on my holidays and finding it hard to stick to my routine of Mon/Wed/Friday posts on History/Travel/Writing. Which is a good thing really, because holidays are a time for stepping back and taking time to look at yourself in the world.

Dougie maclean1One of my best experiences this trip has been the opportunity to hear Dougie Maclean perform in a tiny village hall in the back-of-beyond Perthshire. For those of you who don’t know of him or his music, if you’ve ever watched the film The Last of the Mohicans and listened to that wonderfully hypnotic music – that’s his. Or how about ‘Caledonia‘, a song that people around the world have taken to their hearts – his ‘loveable monster’ as he calls it – and which one day may become Scotland’s national anthem.

One of the songs he performed the other night was The Scythe Song, a haunting and incredibly wise song about learning, practise and patience.

He told us the story behind it; of how his father, a farmer, was skilled at scything the old-fashioned way, slicing through the wheat which then fell to the ground with a softly whispered hishh. Dougie tried to copy him but was unable to match his father’s skill.

“Oh, this is not a thing to learn inside a day,” his father says in the song. “Stand closely by me and I’ll try to show you the way. You’ve got to hold it right, feel the distance to the ground.  Move with a touch so light, until its rhythm you have found. Then you’ll know, what I know.”

The final verse suggests that years later Dougie’s daughter asked him to show her how to play like him. “So little dancing girl you want to learn to play a tune. One that your heart can fill to help you shine under the moon.”

His reply? “Well, it’s not a thing to learn inside a day. Stand closely by me and I’ll try to show the way.”

Then, by changing one single word and adding another, he completes the circle and teaches all of us that, no matter what our passion, whether it’s writing, singing, knitting, sports, building, engineering, science, the answer is the same.

“You’ve got to hold it right feel the distance to the sound
Move with a touch so light until its rhythm you have found
Then you’ll know what I know now.”

 

 

 

 

 

Famous Scottish Writers

Typing ‘Scottish writers’ into Google brings up pages and pages of names. As I said in Monday’s post, for such a small country, Scotland has produced a disproportionate amount of talent.

Here are just a few of those names.

Thomas Carlyle – I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read any of his work, but he was one of the most important philosophers of the 19th Century. Click here to read some of his most famous quotes. The one I found most inspiring: ‘He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything’.

Robert Burns – If you’ve ever sung Auld Lang Syne at New Year, you’ve sung this famous poet’s words.

Sir Walter Scott – Ivanhoe, Rob Roy.

J.M. Barrie – Peter Pan.

Robert Louis Stevenson – Treasure Island.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The creator of Sherlock Holmes

A.J. Cronin – not quite so popular now, but a huge name in the 40s with The Citadel and Dr Finlay’s Casebook.

Alistair MacLean – The Guns of Navarone. Where Eagles Dare.

Muriel Spark – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Kenneth Graham – Wind in the Willows. (I have to admit this was a surprise as it has always seemed a very ‘English’ book to me.)

Iain Banks – The Crow Road

Ian Rankin – Rebus Detective Series

Val McDermid – Crime Writer (Tony Hill Series)

For the Scottish Independence Referendum in September this year, the Scottish Government defines a Scot as someone who chooses to make Scotland his or her home. Under those ‘rules’, here are a few other names you might recognise.

Louise Welsh – Crime writer

Julia Donaldson – Children’s writer.  (The Gruffalo)

J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter series.

Not bad for a small country. What names would you add to this list?

Guest Blogger – Sarah Kades Talking About Scotland

I’m delighted to have Sarah Kades as a guest on my blog today. (Please check out her website at  www.sarahkades.com) Sarah is a great person and writer, full of enthusiasm for life, who I met through the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association.  She’s writing about one of my favourite subjects today – Scotland – so, over to you, Sarah, with many thanks!

Sarah When Diana asked me if I would be a guest blogger, I immediately said yes. Then I wondered what in the dickens was I going to write about? First thing that popped into my head was Scotland. It is Diana’s homeland and I was lucky enough to call it home for one epic semester.

Scotland. Hearing reference to it brings a smile to my face and rekindles the joy I felt there. It is a magical place full of welcoming people and stunning landscapes. Its history, like most places, is deeply layered into its fabric. That can add to tension, but it can also add to resilience and strength. I needed resilience and strength when I was there.

The summer after I graduated from high school, I was gearing up for my freshman year at University. Before classes even started I received a brochure in the mail from the international office about the study abroad opportunities available.

What is this magic? I can go study in other countries? Where do I sign up? I headed to the office and checked out my options. There were several but three stood out; Sweden, Latvia and Scotland. Quite a mix. But there was something about Scotland that said, You need to pick me. Right now.

It happened to be the most affordable, too. Handy, that, as I was paying for my own schooling. (Thank you student loans and grants!) I applied for the following year, the soonest option available. When I was accepted I told my parents what I was doing. I don’t know exactly what was going through their heads during those conversations, but they both looked a bit shell-shocked. Now that I am older, I have a bit more perspective and can imagine the myriad of WTHs that must have been going through their heads. No one in our family traveled and I was flittering off across an ocean. My thoughts, Weeeeeeeeee!; their thoughts, Eeeeeek!

As the time came closer, my parents were divorcing and it was a rather tumultuous time in my family history. I briefly toyed with the notion of staying home. But a friend stated loudly and with much feeling; Sarah do not pass this opportunity because your parents are divorcing. You’ll regret it forever. Go! 

So I went. And it was perfect. I had a series of those pinging life experiences. You know, one after another, after another, after another of experiences absolutely perfect for the course of your life. Seriously, life made sense there, and worked on so many levels. I went to class, traveled, played rugby, met wonderful people, hiked energetic and incredibly beautiful landscapes, walked down stone pathways grooved by eons of footsteps, sat on benches older than my homeland’s Constitution, danced, played and overall had the perfect time. And I met myself there. The real me, the uncensored, happy hippy kid in love with life.

Back home I had a role in my family. I’m sure others can relate. It’s not bad, it’s just, well, baggage. Family is awesome, but when you want to bust out your wings and see where you can fly, sometimes finding a new launch area is in everyone’s best interest. I’m lucky my family is supportive of my black sheep tendencies. Thanks guys!! 🙂

In Scotland, I was free to be me. I was 19; it was a great time to explore who the heck I was and who I wanted to be. Scotland gave me the opportunity, and the support system of new friends and nurturing landscapes to help me do that. And fun, oh my goodness, I laughed so much! I also gained a confidence in myself that I had never experienced before. Navigating the foreign countries for side trips, meeting other travelers from around the world, tasting new foods, smelling new air, walking paths no one from back home had heard of let alone danced on was really good for me. I was learning how to forge my own way, not because back home was bad, it just wasn’t the setting for the next chapters/books of my life.

Scotland was also a lifeline when I didn’t even realize I needed one, teaching me that resilience and strength I mentioned above. A writer friend once asked why can’t adult children of divorced parents just get over it? When she asked, my first feeling was offense at her insensitivity. Maybe now I can shed some light. Just like the history of a country, the history of a family is woven. It is the blanket you know. Pull out some strings and the blanket is not the same. Reweave those strings into a new pattern and they might flow seamlessly, creating a beautiful new picture or pattern, different, but still a warm, functioning blanket. Or pull out strings and the whole damn thing snags. Forget about a pattern or picture, getting the knots out needs to happen first. Finessing those snags and knots back to smooth might happen in short order for some families, or it can take years, if ever.

As serendipity and my writing muses (i.e. my loud, adorable characters) would have it, I started writing The Tanner Series, five books featuring a family torn apart by divorce and old secrets. Now to be clear, my experience as an adult kid of divorced parents didn’t include CSIS agents or European crown princesses or bull riders, but this series is awesome to write. 🙂 I hope those who read it find each book filled with love, humor, compassion and healing, in all areas of life. For more information, available titles, and/or to subscribe to my newsletter for release dates, check out www.sarahkades.com).

Scotland provided me with a sense of home and community while the one I knew back home was snagging. It also gave me the opportunity to let myself be welcomed into friends’ family-groups. A skill that has served me, and my Canadian husband, well throughout our travels and all the places we’ve called home.

To our adopted families all over, Thank You. To one of my adoptive homes, Scotland, Thank You. You welcomed me in with open arms and kept hugging. Thanks! To my parents and siblings and Wisconsin, thanks for the amazing foundation you provided, along with continuing hugs. Those were/are epic chapters of my life and I can fly now because of them. 🙂

Happy Travels! Happy Reading!

All you need to know about Scotland in four items!

GTrayI’m excited to have  Sarah Kades writing on my blog on Wednesday.  She’ll be talking about her visit to Scotland, so I’ve decided to keep with the ‘theme’ and examine a little about the history of Scotland today and some of its great writers on Friday’s post.

Arriving in a Glasgow hotel room, we found the following four items waiting for us; a bottle of Scottish spring water, a bottle of Irn Bru, a Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer and an apple. My husband commented that those four items told you everything you needed to know about Scotland, so although I might be stretching things a little in places, here I go!

waterWATER: As part of an island nation, Scotland is surrounded on three sides by water. The sea has exerted a great influence on the country’s history and culture. It has brought invaders (Romans and Vikings), Christianity and commerce (fishing, sugar and tobacco trade, oil and gas) to its shores.

For an island nation, it also harbours over 790 offshore islands within its total boundary, the main ones being Shetland, Orkney, and the Inner and outer Hebrides, but there are plenty more.  The Isle of Arran, which I’ve written about before, is only 2 hours travel west of Glasgow and known as Scotland in Miniature.

Because of its latitude, Scotland should experience similar winters to Scandinavia, but the presence of the Gulf Stream protecting its shores means that even in winter you can always find palm trees on the west coast.

Don’t forget the water which is essential in whisky making – uisge beatha – literally the water of life, or the rivers and streams famous for their salmon.

And… oh yes, it does rain in Scotland.  Sometimes quite a lot.  But that’s what makes it such a lush, green and beautiful place.

irn burIRN BRU: A local soft drink, produced since 1901, it continues to outsell the giants – Coke and Pepsi – in Scotland. As such, I think it symbolizes the uniqueness of Scotland and its people who posses a real warmth and friendliness – but also a bloody-mindedness.

Over the past few hundred years, Scotland’s influence on the world has been way out of proportion for its size of population. Although many factors are involved, some credit is often given to John Knox, an influential Presbyterian minister, who insisted that every single child in Scotland (rich or poor ) learn to read the Bible. An educated population gave Scotland a huge advantage during the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution.

According to Wikipedia, 75% of US presidents can claim some Scottish Ancestry, and the first permanent settlement in America – Jamestown – was named after a Scot.  (King James VI of Scotland/I of England.)

Scots make up the 3rd largest ethnic group in Canada and the first prime-minister of the Dominion was Scots-born Sir John A. MacDonald.

caramelTUNNOCK’S CARAMEL WAFERS: Like Irn Bru, Tunnock’s is a successful Scottish company, created in the 19th Century and still going strong. (It’s also one of the few food companies who continue to refuse to make ‘own’ label products for supermarkets.)

Much has changed in the Scottish economy since I was a child. At one time, Glasgow was known as the Second City of the Empire because of its strong industrial base and I still remember the fading days of shipbuilding, steel, coal mining, car manufacturing, sewing machine manufacture and railway engine building in the Central Belt.

That has all gone now.  Modern industries include Oil and Gas, Banking and Finance, Computing and Pharmaceuticals while the traditional agriculture, forestry, fishing – and let’s not forget whisky! – continue to flourish.

appleAPPLE: Hmmm.  Scotland’s diet is not the healthiest in the world – remember that this is the country that gave the world the ‘Deep Fried Mars Bar’!  Even a Scottish government report admits that the Scots’ poor diet is the second major cause (after smoking) of poor health.

But… Scottish food is amazing.  Here’s just a ‘taste’ of what’s on offer.  Haggis, Cullen Skink, Finnan Haddie, Smoked Salmon, Black Pudding, Mince and Tatties, Square sausage, Stovies, Blaeberries, Lanark Blue Cheese, Cranachan, Marmalade, Oatcakes, Butteries, Tablet, Tattie scones, Shortbread, Heather Honey.

So there you go, a brief  look at Scotland through four items found in my hotel room.  But there’s so much more that I haven’t even touched on. The scenery for one thing.  It truly is gorgeous.

I guess there’s only one thing for it – you need to come here and see it all for yourself!

Lamlash Cemetery – Part Two

In which I continue with my fascination with cemeteries, and particularly Lamlash Cemetery on the Isle of Arran

Other than gravestones, you never know what you’ll find in a cemetery.  A weary hiker sunbathing in his underwear just behind the bench… a crow (straight from a horror story perhaps?) perched atop a tree gazing down on his domain… or some rather creepy footprints embedded in the mossy grass.

Person         crow         footstteps

I did consider including some of the very beautiful contemporary headstones to be found, but decided against it. Some of the inscriptions were just a little too recent, and I would hate it if someone’s family member was to stumble on this blog and find a loved one’s marker. So you’ll just have to take my word for it – or visit yourself! – that there are some very thoughtful and moving memorials to be found.

Making your way past the ‘modern’ cemetery, (which is where you will find the military gravestones illustrated in my first blog on Lamlash Cemetery) you come to the walls of the original graveyard.

old        ood2

Amongst the more than one hundred or so gravestones ‘beyond the wall’, here are three of my favourites. The first one dates back to the 1700s and I find it interesting how the words roll into each other without a break. The inscription on the second, belonging to Lady Charlotte Erskine, eldest daughter of The Earl of Mar, intrigued me: ‘Where the tree fell, there should it lie’. Arran’s ‘gentry’ were the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, so perhaps Lady Erskine was visiting them on the island when she died.

1700                     lady

As for last grave… well it’s certainly one I wouldn’t want to run into on a dark night!

skull