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text 2018-07-16 00:51
Sunday Adventures... prepare for some disappointment

Happy Sunday!

 

Following my resolve to make the most of this summer and the current heat wave, I thought today was a good day for another adventure. So, I set out and headed North again to try and visit the Dolphin Centre, a charity devoted to the conservation of and education about marine mammals. 

 

 

The centre is located on the mouth of the river Spey, which is mostly famous for providing one of the necessities to make whisky. If there is anything that exists in greater number than castles up here, it's distilleries...but that's a topic for another weekend.

 

The Dolphin Centre is a charity run by volunteers who, aside from staffing the cafe, organise tours of the centre and keep an eye on the local dolphin population. Apparently, there are around 190 of them in the Moray Firth, the area close to the centre. 

 

Unfortunately, none of them felt like making an appearance today. Not one. 

 

 

There were lots of gulls, ... but let's just say it would be more unusual not to see a gull. They are everywhere around these parts. 

 

Still, it was a nice day out and there were some gorgeous paths around the Spey estuary.

 

 

At some point during my walk, the rain set on. It was sunny and sweltering hot when I left home this lunch time. Too hot. The change of weather was magnificent. Even tho it was raining, it was the sort of warm summer rain that smells and feels like poetry.  Loved it.

 

I hope your Sundays have been fun, too.

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text 2018-07-08 16:46
The Sunday Post: Macbeth Country, well more of it... sort of.

Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more.

By Sinel’s death I know I am Thane of Glamis;

But how of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives,

A prosperous gentleman; and to be King

 Stands not within the prospect of belief,

No more than to be Cawdor. Say from whence

You owe this strange intelligence, or why

Upon this blasted heath you stop our way

With such prophetic greeting? Speak, I charge you.

 

- William Shakespeare - Macbeth (Act I, Scene III)

 

 “I wish the Bard had never written his damned play!

- John Campbell, 5th Earl Cawdor 

It's been a stressful and rather frustrating week at BT HQ last which started with some-Brexit induced admin nightmare, which needed me to seek out the an appointment at Glasgow City Council on Monday because none of the council offices closer to home, i.e. on the other side of the country, were able to offer the required services. This was pretty stressful in itself (had to take a day off work on short notice and nearly panicked when sitting down for getting paperwork checked etc. it looked like I might have misplaced a bit of it ... it did re-appear in a different pile ... but that was one long minute of near panic) but a few days after I received a call from the council officer whose only task in this whole process was to take copies: the copies had turned out blurry and could I "pop in" for another round?

 

Erm, ... no.

 

So, several calls with people on withheld numbers and the local Chief Registrar later, we got another plan of action.

As it turns out, if I had submitted my paperwork a few days later, there would have been no need to trek to Glasgow because my local council will start offering the same admin service on Monday. Monday as in from tomorrow. And by local I mean the council office that is is a 10 minute walk away. But of course this was not announced anywhere least of all on the relevant government websites... GAAAAAHH!!!!

 

Tuesday brought with it a minor surgery - nothing serious, but it needed to be done - which went very well apart from some slight discomfort and the weird experience of asking the consultant to stop telling me in detail what he was about to do. I'm not exaggerating when I tell people that I can't read gory horror stories or thrillers... The descriptions really make me queasy. And as I found out, being at the receiving end of even a minor surgical procedure while being told the descriptions and wherefores of incisions etc. does not make me feel any comfortable at all.

Apparently, my request that the consultant stop the narration and get on with the procedure was unusual and a lot of people want to know the details. Well, each to their own. I now know that I'd rather know the plan step-by-step beforehand but not during.

 

The rest of this week was a bit of a mess really, but not being one for moping about in fine weather (even if I wasn't allowed to play tennis - because sutures...), I figured it was a fine day for exploring a castle that I had not been to, yet.

 

Cawdor Castle, near Nairn in the north of Scotland had been on my list for a long, long time. As some of you may know, I have a bit of a thing for Macbeth - both Shakespeare's version and the historical figure - and one of my other favourite castles to spend time at is Glamis (near Forfar), but I just had not had a chance to make the trip to Cawdor (about 3 hours of leisurely driving in good weather). 

 

It was a fabulous decision. I mean just look at this beauty of a castle:

 

And the inside of it was just so ... let me show you because they had no problems with people taking plenty of photos of the amazing place:

 

 

Just look at them BOOKS! It's a lived in castle. The Dowager Countess does still live there and as one lady-in-a-hurry told me in passing, she does do most of the administration of the castle herself.

 

Also, there was a maze ... with a minotaur. :D

 

 

The castle was built in the late 14th, early 15th century. As the official guide book says:

"A new higher, harder site was chosen (traditionally by a donkey rather than by an architect - creatures with much in common), and as this rocky position was water-bearing yet firm, it could provide both a drinking-well and a strong foundation.

The tall, plain rectangular tower-house consisted of four storeys and a garret, served by a turnpike stair, and with one entrance to the outside world set at upper first floor level: the perfect design to keep out tourists."

So, what's the connection with Shakespeare? 

 

Well, Macbeth (1005 - 1057) was real, but he was not a Thane of Cawdor (nor of Glamis btw.). King Duncan was killed, but he was killed in outright battle by Macbeth's troops, not in his sleep while being a guest under Macbeth's roof. 

 

And as for the roof itself: The play was written in 1606 but not printed until 1632, i.e. after Shakespeare's death. However, the places described in the play were apparently added quite late in the play's publication history. So, can we really know whether the locations in the published versions are the ones Shakespeare intended? 

 

Even if so, Cawdor was not one of them. The play notes Macbeth's castle near Inverness, but this could just as well have meant the original Inverness Castle or another castle in the area - there are several - or it could have just all been invented. After all, it's a play! 

 

Most of all, of course, the possibility of the Cawdor Castle being the location of that gruesome midnight murder that lost King Duncan his life, Macbeth his sleep, and Lady Macbeth her mind, blows up in a puff of smoke when you look at the dates: the castle wasn't built until the 1400s and the previous castle near Nairn (about 5 miles away) was also built over a hundred years after Kind Duncan's death.  

 

So, I get that the Campbells, the owners of the castle, get a bit touchy every time some fan of the play takes Shakespeare's play as historical fact. There should be space enough in people's heads to hold both versions and people should have the critical thinking skills to be able to make the distinction between fact and fiction. Otherwise, we are letting entertainment and propaganda form our opinions and write our history books. 

 

Oh, hang on, ... that's already happened, ... and is still happening.

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review 2018-06-23 21:36
Sleepless in Scotland
Sleepless in Scotland - May McGoldrick

I read the previous book in this series so when the publisher invited me to read this one I jumped at the chance. This book follows Phoebe and Ian. Ian is still dealing with the murder of his sister Sarah and Phoebe, who was Sarah's best friend, is on a mission to expose corruption in her news articles. When Phoebe finds her self in danger Ian must save her from the same fate as his sister.

 

I really liked both Phoebe and Ian. They had good chemistry and were interesting characters to follow. I liked how their romance weaved with the murder storyline but at times felt like the book just dragged on. I did not guess who the murderer was and liked the confrontation at the end.

 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the galley.

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review 2018-06-21 01:15
Awesome!
Sleepless in Scotland - May McGoldrick

OMG!  What a fantastic read.  Sleepless In Scotland by May McGoldrick is an amazing historical romance.  Ms. McGoldrick has supplied us with a well-written book and loaded it with phenomenal characters.  Phoebe is writing an article under a pen name and puts herself in danger by looking for information.  Ian's sister was murdered and years later he's still looking for the killer.  Phoebe and Ian's story is loaded with drama, humor, sizzle, action and suspense.  This book held me captive from cover to cover.  I enjoyed reading Sleepless In Scotland and look forward to reading more from May McGoldrick soon.  Sleepless In Scotland is book 3 of The Pennington Family Series but can be read as a standalone.  This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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review 2018-06-04 14:41
You Can Go Home Again
The Cafe by the Sea: A Novel - Jenny Colgan

Sorry, the main reason I cannot give this above three stars is that I can never cheer for a woman (fictional or not) being the reason that a man who is an asshole changes his ways. It never feels realistic and it just ends up making me annoyed the author writes a guy that you end up not liking and wish would just disappear from the book. I liked the character of Flora and her family (her three brothers and father are great) but thought she was self absorbed and sharp to people too much. I did love the book getting into the recipes her mother passed down and the author including some of them in the back of the book was much appreciated. That said, I found that there was a bit too much going on in this first book. We have a couple of plot-lines and though the selkie myth was intriguing, I wish that Colgan had leaned a bit more into that and had an air of magical realism in this book. 

 

After having a fight with her family, Flora resolves to never return home to the island of Mure (off the coast of Scotland). Flora is determined to have a life in London and though she has crushes here and there, is mostly fixated on her boss, Joel. When a client demands that Joel's firm handle a potential issue on Mure that will impact his hotel and livelihood, Flora is sent to Mure to deal with things. Being back home among her family and friends, Flora finally comes to grips with her past and present. 

 

Flora was an okay character, but I think another character her supposed childhood best friend Lorna who I think at one point pretty much tells Flora she needs to get over things. Lorna apparently has gone through similar things as Flora, but you don't see her being a jerk about it. Flora has two love interests in this book (I was only rooting for one) and is doing her best to have her firm look its best with her on hand on Mure to help.  


We have secondary characters in this, but the book mostly revolves around Flora. I did love Flora's brother Fintan a secret that he has been harboring for a long time. His resentment of Flora for getting away from Mure was a bit much to take after a while though. I was glad when that all got resolved. I did wish we got more conversations/dialogue with Lorna.

 

The writing was okay, but after a while the whole book started to feel a bit same-y to me. We have Flora realizing her family's farm isn't doing so well, we have her not really working, and then she cleans and cooks. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's not until Joel shows up in Mure does the story start moving forward a bit. 

 

The island of Mure sounds magical. I liked reading about selkies and we finally get Flora re-counting a story her mother told her about the mythical creatures at the end of the book. As I said above, I wish that Colgan had leaned in a bit more into the magical realism genre. 

 

The ending was not the least bit realistic. However, this is a romance, so everyone gets their happily ever after. 



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