Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Scottish Holiday – Day Eight - Wednesday



The day started off wet and very dark.


As we went over the Ballachulish Bridge some light appeared in the sky over the Pap of Glencoe.  (And that lamp-post really was leaning at that angle!)  In the distance you can see the Pap of Glencoe, a mountain on the Northern side of Glencoe.


We have often passed Castle Stalker on but I have never stopped there before.  This time we called in at the visitor centre for a coffee.  It is believed that Castle Stalker, much in its present form, was built by the then Lord of Lorn, Sir John Stewart, in about 1388.   King James IV of Scotland enjoyed staying there and hunting in the area.


 
A patch of blue sky gradually appeared as we crossed over Loch Creran – “Enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers”, as my grandmother would say.


But the skies darkened again as we went over the Connel Bridge and big drops of rain landed on the car windows.


We arrived at the Argyll in Inveraray in late afternoon.  We like this hotel with its pleasant service, excellent food and comfortable beds and have been back a few times now.



We had a wander around the town for a while…




…and then dressed for dinner.



And dinner was as good as always. 





Saturday, 20 September 2014

‘The Library of Unrequited Love’




‘The Library of Unrequited Love’ by Sophie Divry trans. Siân Reynolds (2013), first published as ‘La Cote 400’ (2010), is 100 pages of pure joy for any librarian, aspiring librarian, ex-librarian, or librarian manqué.  On second thoughts, you don’t even have to be any of those – I bet there’s a good chance you’d enjoy it anyway.   It is in the unusual form of a one-way conversation between a librarian and a man who got locked in the building overnight.   On my scale of 1 to 10 it ranks 11!

Sophie Divry lives in Lyon.  She likes aubergines, olive oil and her mother’s home-made jam.  She hates cars, is a feminist and has a phobia about open doors.  She likes swimming in the sea, lakes or rivers, but does not like buying a book without knowing what’s inside it.  Siân Reynolds is a past winner of the Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize, and has translated many French writers.  She lives in Edinburgh.


From the dedication to the last page the book is full of quotable pieces.
The dedication – ‘To all those men and women who will always find a place for themselves in a library more easily than in society, I dedicate this entertainment.’


You’re never alone if you live surrounded by books.

… you can’t trust the readers an inch…  …readers only come into a library to cause mayhem.
 
Because is there anything more fascinating about a person than a beautiful neck seen from behind?  The back of the neck is a promise, summing up the whole person through their most intimate feature.  Yes, intimate.  It’s the part of your body you can never see yourself. 

…what I do is recharge my batteries here in my basement.  Even though it isn’t a very interesting job.  If indeed there are any interesting jobs in this profession.  Still, some people have better perches than me. 

All the hundreds of books pouring off the presses, ninety-nine per cent of them, they’d do better to use the paper for wrapping takeaways. 

The publishers ought to put a sell-by date on them, because they’re just consumer goods.

It’s so sad.  Nothing is sadder than an empty library.  I mean a library that’s open, but with no readers.

Book and reader, if they meet up at the right moment in a person’s life, it can make sparks fly, set you alight, change your life.

The inexhaustible milk of human culture, right here, within our reach.  Help yourself, it’s free. Borrow, because as much as accumulation of material things impoverishes the soul, cultural abundance enriches it.

Even me, do you think I’ve got things under control here?  Not at all, I’m their slave.  If they’re in the wrong order, they start shouting at me, and I have to hurry along like a servant to put them right, get them into the proper shelf.

Go on, you’ve got plenty of intelligence, so let’s say you read two books a week, for fifty years in your lifetime, you’ll have read how many?  Five thousand.   That’s nothing. Nothing at all, compared to what we have here; two hundred and fifty thousand, seven hundred different books.  And in the National Library, they’ve got fourteen million.  We’re just cockroaches.

And I like to see people losing their library cherry.  Oh well, of course, if the first time is a fiasco, it’ll be hard to carry on.

Writing only happens when something’s wrong.  If everyone on earth was happy, they wouldn’t write anything except recipes and postcards, and there wouldn’t be any books, or literature, or libraries.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Scottish Holiday – Day Seven - Tuesday

I'm posting this as the results of the Referendum are coming in.  

Tuesday was another wet day and one on which I was not in the best of health.  Our first stop was Arisaig Tourist Information Office which also housed a wonderful display about their Post Office.  I shall do a separate post on that subject – perhaps on my Postal blog.   Also there was a stone incised with Neolithic (4000 – 2500 BC) carving that was found on the Rhu Peninsula, Arisaig. 



The Centre was built on the site of the old smithy and still contains the forge and other bits and pieces.


We carried on up the old Road to the Isles but the rain and mist meant that the usual view of the Inner Hebrides was non-existent.  


We parked up in Mallaig – the end of the Road and also of the railway line that runs from Fort William over the viaduct at Glenfinnan.  The viaduct which appears in the Harry Potter film.


Because I wasn’t well we headed back to the Lochailort Inn for me to have a lie down.  But the idea or a sleep was soon upset by the fact that there were Red Deer in the Inn’s garden.


Deer fences are OK until the deer get the wrong side of them and can’t get back! 

This was Mum (on the correct side of the fence) keeping an eye on what her son or daughter was up to.


After taking a few slow speed photos in the midday dark of a rainy day I headed for bed.   But my sleep was soon interrupted by Partner-who-loves-tea telling me of the arrival of a number of Red Deer under the bedroom window.


When a deer moves fast and it’s dark outside the best a chap can do is click through the rain-soaked window and hope for the best.


Each of the deer was easily recognisable.   This one was darker than the first one we saw.


 This one had little antlers growing.


Then this one turned up and the first one we had seen took one look at him/her and fled across the road.


After a sleep we went downstairs for dinner which was excellent.  And so to bed – properly this time.





Thursday, 18 September 2014

Feathers and Leaves

My latest book


William Brodrick – The Discourtesy of Death (2013).  It is probably unfair to describe this as cosy crime because it ventures beyond the fun of ‘guess the murderer’ and enters the deep moral question of assisted suicide and the sanctity of life.  This is the fifth book featuring Father Anselm.  British born William Brodrick (1960), in a career change that reverses Father Anselm's, was an Augustinian friar before leaving in order to become a practising barrister. I shall certainly be seeking out ‘The Sixth Lamentation’, the first Father Anselm book, and following the series through.

These quotes may seem like spoilers but they aren’t -

“I cannot walk.  I have cancer.  I am going to die.
I’ve decided to stay at home.
I won’t have all those tubes and medicines.
I won’t have different nurses holding my hand.
I won’t be on the agenda when the night shift go home and the day shift turn up.
I might be alone.
It could be painful.
I’ll be very frightened. I’m frightened already.
I might hang around on the edge of living, held down by this body of mine that doesn’t work.
Things couldn’t be much worse.
You gave me the strength to write those words. You taught me not to be ashamed of saying that things are bad and awful, when they are. You said there’s a liberty in all honesty. You said, by the same token, that I should never give up on surprises. Well, as the end nears, I thought we might talk about that.”

“I don’t think anyone murdered Jenny – in the sense of killed her against her will.  If it wasn’t X then it was someone who loved her. They’d faced the one fact that you can’t face – that sometimes life is hopeless. That too often there are no last minute surprises. This is the real world, Anselm.”

A rich, heavy smell that could only be called brown.

(And finally some words that are truly meaningful for anyone who has lost a child – of whatever age) -

Anselm thought that the glory of life – even brief and trimmed down to the point of seeming insignificance – remained utterly breath-taking.  That death, with all its power, would always be the one who came afterwards. The latecomer who’d missed the party.
‘You came and you went so quickly,” he said.  “But I saw your flight and I’ll remember you.”

 A Blue Tit pays a visit
On Wednesday Partner-who-loves-tea and I got home from having a coffee at Aroma in Irby and as I walked upstairs I heard a fluttering noise – like a Hawkmoth trying to get out of the window.  But it wasn’t a Hawkmoth – it was a Blue Tit. The window he was fluttering against is on the half-landing of the stairs and reaches to the top of the house – it’s about fifteen feet tall.  I had a brief vision of combining ladders and footstools and Heaven knows what.  Fortunately the Blue Tit had other ideas and stayed fluttering against the bottom pane and was relatively easy to catch.  A tiny head poking out of my not-too-clenched fists and taking occasional pecks at my finger.  P-w-l-t opened the front door and then reached for the camera but the Blue Tit decided the smell of green freedom was too string and began struggling so much I had to let him go, zipping across the garden and into the hedge like a bullet. We still haven’t fathomed which window the silly creature decided to investigate – there were none open more than an inch or so.  It seemed a lovely story with a happy ending until I woke up in the middle of the night with inflamed fingers.  Surely a Blue Tit’s tiny peck couldn't have done that.  No.  When I investigated I realised that in the capturing the bird in the corner of the window I had brushed against the cacti.  I’m still picking out almost invisible thorns but it was worth it to hold that tiny life in my hands, however briefly.


I decided to put one of my Blue Tit pictures in this post but when I put Tit into my computer’s ‘Search’ facility in the bottom left corner instead of looking for the word Tit it opened Chess Titans and asked me what level I wanted to play at?  There should be a special exclamation mark to follow the word Computers!

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