Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A Suffolk Calendar by Allan Jobson

'A Suffolk Calendar' by Allan Jobson; with a very good cover design.
  For my Interesting Book Covers series:  



Friday, 21 February 2014

Crooked Adam by D. E. Stevenson

Crooked Adam by D.E. Stevenson is a wonderful tale of mystery, action, adventure, espionage and a bit of romance.  This is the second book I've read of this author and I've enjoyed both books very much.  This one was published in 1942, set in England then mainly Scotland, and involves the valiant efforts of some brave and honest men keeping the invention and plans of a new secret weapon ray gun out of the hands of Nazi German agents, who are desperate to get hold of it.

 Adam Southey, the Crooked Adam of the title, is so-called due to a limp he has with his leg.  In the beginning he is unfulfilled and discontent that he is working as a teacher when he'd rather be fighting for his country;  but Adam soon get swept up into an exciting and adventurous life that he could never have dreamed of. 

The story has a nice, easy pace, and combined with the detailed descriptions of scenery, one really gets a feel for the settings.  I can wholeheartedly recommend this book, it's a good one!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Robert Burns, Some Verses For Burns Night

It's Burns Night tonight, whether you abide in Scotland or not;  for if you love Scotland or have any ancestral lure to it, you will probably know about the great poet Robert Burns.  He was a beautiful writer of verse (and a bit of a Casanova too) and has been one of the most loved figures of Scotland for a very long time.  He is one of my favourite writers. Here are some romantic verses from a song:

Oh Wert Thou In The Cauld Blast:

Oh wert thou in the cauld blast
On yonder lea, on yonder lea;
My plaidie to the angry airt,
I'd shelter thee, I'd shelter thee:
Or did misfortune's bitter storms around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
Thy bield should be thy bosom, to share it a', to share it a'.
Or were I in the wildest waste,
sae black and bare, sae black and bare,
The desart were a paradise,
If thou wert there, if thou wert there.
Or were I monarch o' the globe,
Wi' thee to reign, wi' thee to reign;
The brightest jewel in my crown,
wad be my queen, wad be my queen.


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Literary Ramblings and Celtic Folklore For Hogmanay


Here's a miscellany of enticing little curiosities concerned with Hogmanay ( New Year's in Scotland), old Celtic folklore, traditions, etc...  I have accumulated a lot of interesting books over time, and it's a pleasure to share these archaic pieces with any of you who may find some curious appeal in them!  I assembled this piece a few years ago, when my head was full of Scottish music and books, and so it has come from another site which no longer exists, but this a good time to repost it.

A guid New Year to ane and a'
And mony may ye see;
And during a' the year to come,
Happy may ye be.          A Guid New Year

Now we hae gotten't in aboot,
An' a' orr thingies ticht,
We gather roun' the festive board
To spend a jolly nicht.      The Hairst o' Rettie

Rise up, guidwife, and shake yir featers;
Dinna think that we are beggars,
We're only bairnies come to play
So up and gie's our Hogmanay.      Children's rhyme

Mummer's plays were popular at this time of year:
"Eader a' da la Nodlag-between Christmas Day and New Year's Day the mummers took to the streets.
There was St. George and St. Denis and St. Patrick in their buffe coats, and the Turke was there likewise and Oliver Cromwell and a Doctor, and an old woman who made rare sport, till Belsibub came in with a frying pan upon his shoulder and a great flail in his hand thrashing about him on friends and foes, and at last running away with the bold usurper, Cromwell, whom he tweaked by his gilded nose- and there came a little devil with a broom to gather up the money that was thrown to the Mummers for the sport.  It is an ancient pastime, they tell me, of the Citizens."
                                                            A Visitor To Cork, 1685

In the Isle of Man, New Year's Day was often called Little Christmas.  Fiddlers would go from house to house to rouse the occupants with music, and their wives would follow the next day for payment, usually food or drink.

"The eve of New Year's Day was one of supreme importance in the Highlands and Islands of the West and took precedence even over Christmas.  It was a time of much ceremony and gaity, but underneath the levity lies a sinister hint of the old ritual and sacrificial nature of the festival.  The eve of New Year was known as Oidhche Challuinn, and New Year's Day as La' Challiunn.  First-footing is still carried out, as in other parts of the Highlands, although, as elsewhere, it is a dying custom."
The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands by Anne Ross, 1976

Here's an old Hogmanay verse:
Tonight is the hard night of Hogmanay,
I am come with a lamb to sell-
The old fellow yonder sternly said
He would strike my ear against a rock.
The woman, better of speech, said
That I should be let in;
For my food and for my drink,
A morsel due and something with it.

Highland Weather Almanac:
The Highlanders form a sort of almanac or presage of the weather for the ensuing year in the following manner.  They make observation on twelve days, beginning at the last of December, and hold as an infallible rule that whatsoever weather happens on each of those days, the same will prove to agree in the correspondent months.  Thus, January is to answer to the weather of December the 31st, February to that of January 1st; and so on with the rest.  Old people still pay great attention to this augury.       Thomas Pennant, A Tour In Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides, 1772

In the Celtic lands of Britain, the people did not at first take kindly to the introduction of the New Style calendar in 1752, and tenaciously clung to the old order of things, including the stubborn conviction that 6 January was the real Christmas day.    from, A Celtic Book of Days

In the past the calendrical significance of January varied according to whether Celtic, Anglo-Saxon or Norse tradition was followed, with Yule continuing all month in the north of Scotland, but Christmas elsewhere originally on 5th January (or 6th) but ending on New Year's Eve.

In another folk customs book, it states that on New Year's Day morning in Scotland, men can traditionally demand a kiss from any woman they know...which could be nice, or not, depending on who you happened to meet!

I often tend to get moody or melancholy at New Year's Eve for some reason, but am doing all right this time, just not dwelling on it too much.  For it is a fresh new year, be hopeful and think on good things!  Happy New Year!