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Home is the weary traveller…

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…though I suspect that not all of me made it back – I think I’ve left my heart in Edinburgh…

I think the trip can be regarded as a success as far as its original intent, in that I got mum to all the available remaining memory points (and more than originally planned!) She was so happy to have revisited places like the house we lived in and the church she was married in, and so that was a job well done! I hope she created new memories, because I certainly did…

Edinburgh skyline from The Mound – the weather was amazing all week…

The trip was not without its problems and conflicts, mostly arising out of her physical restrictions at 83, her general stubbornness and intransigence (which always brings out in me the baggage I have with her) and the fact that she had to be reminded occasionally that the trip was not all about her and what she wanted to do but that I had needs too..

Mum enjoying a cuppa in a posh place called The Dome which was once a Bank head office she worked in.

However, Edinburgh seemed to win out over all obstacles, and some of the highlights were:

  • The train journey itself, though fraught with Seat Wars, went through some amazingly beautiful scenery. We travelled the East Coast Line and particularly after Newcastle (a city I haven’t visited in decades but should really revisit) the views out to the North Sea were stunning!
  • repeated visits to Princes Street and the gardens (a strong memory from my childhood) where I found myself constantly looking up unbelievingly and thinking “Fuck! That’s Edinburgh Castle!!”
  • seeing the house I used to visit my granny in when I was small, which was a few yards away from the lovely basement flat we’d rented
  • finding out that it was very much possible to be a vegan in Edinburgh!

    Inside the wonderful Henderson’s Salad Table

  • leading on from that, the discovery of the very lovely Henderson’s Salad Table on Hanover Road. I ended up taking myself out into the Edinburgh night on a couple of occasions as mum refused to go out in the evening and I hadn’t come all the way to my home city to sit indoors while she watched Eastenders. Edinburgh felt an incredibly safe city to wander around at night and I ended up eating at Henderson’s a couple of times. It was cosy, beautifully welcoming and the food and staff were perfect. The kind of place you can relax in and feel unpressured about eating out on your own while scribbling up notes in your journal on the day and drinking gin…
  • The National Gallery on The Mound – I visited on a Thursday where they have a late night opening and spent some happy hours with the paintings – particularly four wonderful portraits by one of my favourite painters, Allan Ramsay .

    The Writers’ Museum

  • the discovery of the Writers’ Museum. I came to Edinburgh hoping for traces of Robert Louis Stevenson, but struggled initially – even the large and lovely Waterstones only had the usual two books of his that most shops stock. But as we were ambling down the Royal Mile on the second day, I spotted a little sign pointing down an alley, and tucked away in a funny little tower-like building was the Writers’ Museum. Joy! A whole room devoted to RLS (as well as rooms on others like Burns, of course) and I was able to come away with my only book purchase of the trip – a selection of his poems.
  • I peeked into the National Library of Scotland too which looked rather lovely, and couldn’t resist an RLS tote bag (amongst other things).
  • Monuments! Edinburgh is stuffed to the gills with them and mainly of Dead White (often English!) Men! After all the cogitating I’ve done recently about iconoclasm I tended to find myself looking at them in a very different way: questioning why they were there, what they were intended to say and what they actually said nowadays, and muttering to several of them that they really ought to be torn down… 🤣🤣

But of course the highlight of the trip was the beautiful city of Edinburgh itself. It was slightly weird how instantly at home I felt there, and though I haven’t visited since 1972 it felt oddly as if I hadn’t ever left. Maybe that’s what’s meant by homecoming – certainly I don’t want to leave it so long before I visit again…

Let There Be Books!!!!

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So there I was, talking about avoiding amassing more titles and scratching the book itch – and of course, it’s all gone pear-shaped and out of the window! I have to say that I won’t entirely take the blame and here is a little run-down of what’s been arriving recently…

First up, a number of new items which have crept onto the shelves by various means (sandwiched between my two editions of Priestley’s “English Journey”):

shelf
Two of these were unexpected review books from the lovely MacLehose/Quercus Press (“News from Berlin” and “Island Where I Flee”). Both sound intriguing and so I’m looking forward to them, particularly as I don’t read that many new books.

Two of the Canongate titles were a moment of weakness when I saw their wonderful offer on Twitter – 60% off plus a free book. Let’s face it, that’s just too good to resist…. So I chose the Willa Muir and received the very interesting-looking Kate Riophe book – I like bookish surprises!

odile snow

And there were a couple of small volumes I *may* have just ordered a while ago – the last C.P. Snow I need to complete the set of “Strangers and Brothers” (I may even read these next year…); plus a slightly uncharacteristic Raymond Queneau book, “Odile”, which is apparently based on his time with the surrealists.

Then there was London… At the weekend, I had a lovely day out in the Big Smoke, meeting up with my old friend J. for some pre-Christmas shopping and mooching about. We met at Foyles (always a good place to rendezvous, I find!) and I was persuaded to pick up the Modiano and the Machado de Assis. I’d wanted to read Modiano since hearing about him when he won the Nobel, and his works were initially difficult to track down – so I feel no guilt about buying this! Machado de Assis is my current read and this story is highly recommended! The Lermontov came from the Bloomsbury Oxfam and is translated by the Nabokovs, father and son, so I couldn’t resist.

Allan Ramsay Self Portrait : NPG

Allan Ramsay Self Portrait : NPG

After a little visit to the NPG for the Grayson Perry exhibition (and to see my current favourite portrait, Allan Ramsay’s self-portrait, which wasn’t out when I last visited), we took a scenic bus ride in the sun to Chelsea, to have a look at the Anthropologie shop and a little exhibition there. The shop is *gorgeous* and *not cheap* but we enjoyed window shopping! And just off the King’s Road there was another Oxfam wherein lurked “Twilight of the Eastern Gods” – which has been on my wish list for a while, so it would have been rude not to take it home!

ju

Whew! To add to the book count, J. had very kindly brought me birthday gifts, and a Beverley Nichols! In fact, it ended up being two Beverleys, as one was a lovely hardback of “A Case of Human Bondage”, and the birthday Beverley turned out to be a beautiful old hardback of “A Thatched Roof – which J. made me open in the Foyles cafe as she wanted to see my reaction when I saw that it was signed! (Reaction = very, very happy!). The other gift, which I opened yesterday, was a lovely Persephone I don’t have (but am very keen to read) – “The Children Who Lived in a Barn” by Eleanor Graham, complete with bookmark! The contents are a lovely facsimile of the original Puffin edition. So thanks go to J. for the lovely gifts (and we had a fun day out, too!)

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The final incoming heap were as a result of my birthday – my friends and family know me well and so there are always bookish gifts!

First up, Eldest Child chose two titles from my wish list:

tea aerodrome

The don’t have much in common except that they piqued my interest!

spectres

“Red Spectres” came from mother-in-law via the wish list – yet another title I’ve been after for a while!

bulg

The Bulgakov title likewise – from my brother, who is happy to simply buy me whatever I ask for! 🙂

tea architecture

Tea and Architecture – not obvious bedfellows, but both interests of mine, so OH (who knows me well) did good here by choosing these two lovelies!

vintage

I have a weakness for vintage crafty stuff too, so this book was an ideal choice by a work colleague:

chox

And last, but definitely not least, OH got his priorities right with a non-bookish gift!

So I have been very blessed and spoiled with books lately – and with Christmas coming too, I think I really will have to have a bit of a January cull…… :s

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