Oh it’s been a while, I know, I know. People have begun to talk; people I didn’t know read these musings. So an apology, I have been remiss, side-tracked, life gets in the way. A wee summary is long overdue.
Books, of course, remain close to the heart and though I have not written up any reviews for a while that is not because I may have stopped reading. The one thing I did was to continue to update the year’s favourites over at The Bookshelf. But as to reviews, well they’ve been restricted to occasional comments and updates at the marvellous weekly Tips, Links & Suggestions column over at The Guardian. It’s a must for readers, and a great source of To Be Reads.
The Birthday Bunny has been again, replenishing the never-empty TBR shelf with some real gems, some of which may have been gleaned from comments on that TLS blog. There’s a new volume due to arrive imminently, an Ian Fleming first edition, Thrilling Cities. That’s one gleaned from the writings put together by Lucinda Hawksley in her brilliant compilation The Writer Abroad. I found a copy of Fleming’s narrative at Oxfam Books, just the £750 for that one. Hard to find books, in the right condition and at the right price – what did we do before t’interweb? Needless to say the volume in the post is not from Oxfam…
The summer has not been without interest. Lower Saxony was the venue for the family holiday, and a grand time it was too. The German Health Service was wunderbar, and delighted was I to still have unfettered access. Luneburg was a highlight, and a tour of the Rathaus, which dates back just the 800 years or so. In the Upper Drapers Hall there’s a magnificent painted ceiling, and standing out in one corner is the original hand-painted version of a symbol we all know today – the VW badge. The story was lost without translation, photographs not permitted, but I think I’m right in saying that the Beetle, and indeed Volkswagen, doesn’t quite go back that far.
Bergen-Belsen was an eye opener. My notebook has one word only. Overwhelming.
Photographs were banned too more recently, Culross Palace, not quite as old as the Rathaus, but rammed full of history. Arriving via the new Queensferry Crossing was meant to be a highlight, but being in the east there was mist and haar and little to see, not even another bridge other than the slightest glimpse of a girder through the gloom.
Meanwhile life is blooming on the home policies. Through the kitchen window the other day new life was appearing, twins in fact. There’s a small group of Holstein-fresians, brought close to the farm, birthing by the day. Miserable they were that dreich morning, but in time little pockets of clean and shining black & white motley appeared. All well.
The lapwings are back, murmurrations, drifting and swooping. Like children though they tend to go to ground, an inner sense of camera shyness, even from a few hundred yards away. I’ll get them yet. A Deceit of Lapwings, I’m told, from my chums at Out of Doors the other day, sometimes a desert, both terms seeming strange, not quite up there with that Murder of Crows.
There has been local activity too, with both the Round Strathaven 50 cycle run, and then the Strathaven Hot Air Balloon Festival. Both were grand events. The former brought Andrew Cuthbert, from Larkhall, to my attention. I found him pounding up the steepest of the many hills on the route, that climb out of Millheugh. And I met him again as he crossed the finish line a few hours later. Ignore the shorts, take the T-shirt, he called. And from there his story emerged. One arm re-built, then learning to walk again. He decided to test himself, on this his first outing since all that trauma, with just the fifty miles round Avondale’s countryside. Quite a guy.
Hot air balloons are quite magnificent, and the annual SHABFest brought the crows in as always. The balloons managed a few flights, taking to the air in the calm hours of dawn and dusk, drifting, a bottle of the hard stuff for whatever farmer hosted the landing and the recovery vehicle. I had the good fortune of a prime seat for the Saturday evening tethered glow, from the basket as the flames roared overhead and the sounds of The Proclaimers boomed out from the stage.
And then, some may have noticed, it’s been cake time again, as it always is in September, with birthdays and then the three month countdown, the maturing period, the big one. The Christmas Cake is now sealed in the tin, to be brought out in a few months for the marzipan and so on. I’ll put the recipe up shortly, just in case any laggards haven’t started yet. It’s by far the best recipe I’ve come across, tried and tested, tweaked, always good.