Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Crofter & The Laird by John McPhee

The Crofter & The Laird
by John McPhee
nonfiction 1969
print
finished 1/19/17

The Crofter and The Laird has been in our library for decades. I’ve often looked at it and wondered if I’d like to read it, but I’ve never actually picked it up. 

It was published in 1969, 1970. The reason for the two dates is that it was published in The New Yorker magazine first, and then was ‘developed with the editorial counsel of William Shawn, Robert Bingham, and C.P. Crow.’ 

The author begins the book with
The Scottish clan that I belong to - or would belong to if it were now anything more than a sentimental myth - was broken a great many generations ago by a party of MacDonalds, who hunted down the last chief of my clan, captured him, refused him mercy, saying that a man who had never shown mercy should not ask for it, tied him to a standing stone, and shot him.
That standing stone was on the Scottish island of Colonsay. McPhee brings his wife and four daughters over to live there for a time. He weaves together the past and the present, teaching us local history and showing us what life is like. At the time of the book there were 138 people on the island, and today there are 135 people. Amazing that fifty years later the population is the same especially because the crofters of the late sixties feared the young would leave and never come back. Some must have stayed, and perhaps others have moved there. There are a lot of activities that weren’t going on in the time of the book, for example festivals, and honey production. There is still a laird, and I found an article where he helped save the only pub five years ago.   

There is a tremendous amount of gossip that goes on. The author is told there is no mental illness on Colonsay, probably due to the degree of gossiping.
‘There is apparently a point at which gossip can become so intensely commonplace that it is not only beyond hurting anone but is, in fact, a release.' 
McPhee shares some of this gossip with the reader, using a great device whereby he notes the words of several people, listed one after another without mentioning anyone’s name. This particular topic went on for two pages.
“Donald Garvard is generous man. He would lend his last hundred pounds.”
“He comes in like a bit of a breeze.”
“He’s a hail fellow.”
“He has a strong, Highland sense of humor."

If you have an interest in Scottish island life from almost fifty years ago, this is your book. And if it isn’t a topic that you are particularly interested in, you may find yourself drawn into the book. I so enjoyed it. This is my second choice for 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Some videos which are all about the deep thoughts we have in our twenties

When we were in our twenties, Tom remarked on the fact that we now had adult memories; that we could look back and see a past. That doesn’t happen in your teens. It seems to be a perception, a knowledge that occurs when one is a twenty-something. 

My favorite Pink Floyd song tells of this experience, and I happened to see that Roger Waters, who wrote the lyrics, came to the realization when he was 28 or 29. 
This song is about how time can slip by, but many people do not realise it until it is too late. Roger Waters got the idea when he realised he was no longer preparing for anything in life, but was right in the middle of it. 
"Time"

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It's good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away, across the fields
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spell


One of my very early posts spotlighted the first Keane album. A song from it that expresses this same twenties experience is Somewhere Only We Know.

I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river, and it made me complete

Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I'm getting old, and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you're gonna let me in
I'm getting tired, and I need somewhere to begin

I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I've been dreaming of?

Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I'm getting old, and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you're gonna let me in
I'm getting tired, and I need somewhere to begin

And if you have a minute, why don't we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don't we go
Somewhere only we know?

Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I'm getting old, and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you're gonna let me in
I'm getting tired, and I need somewhere to begin

And if you have a minute, why don't we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don't we go?
So why don't we go?

This could be the end of everything
So why don't we go
Somewhere only we know
Somewhere only we know
Somewhere only we know?


Adele’s latest album 25 is described here and there’s that same theme. 

"Million Years Ago"

I only wanted to have fun
Learning to fly learning to run
I let my heart decide the way
When I was young
Deep down I must have always known
That this would be inevitable
To earn my stripes I'd have to pay
And bare my soul

I know I'm not the only one
Who regrets the things they've done
Sometimes I just feel it's only me
Who can't stand the reflection that they see
I wish I could live a little more
Look up to the sky not just the floor
I feel like my life is flashing by
And all I can do is watch and cry
I miss the air, I miss my friends
I miss my mother, I miss it when
Life was a party to be thrown
But that was a million years ago

When I walk around all of the streets
Where I grew up and found my feet
They can't look me in the eye
It's like they're scared of me
I try to think of things to say
Like a joke or a memory
But they don't recognize me now
In the light of day

I know I'm not the only one
Who regrets the things they've done
Sometimes I just feel it's only me
Who never became who they thought they'd be
I wish I could live a little more
Look up to the sky not just the floor
I feel like my life is flashing by
And all I can do is watch and cry
I miss the air I miss my friends
I miss my mother I miss it when
Life was a party to be thrown
But that was a million years ago
A million years ago


This post was prompted by an Ed Sheeran video I watched this morning. I thought, oh my gosh, this really is a ‘thing.’ It is a life truth that when we’ve had a few years of living, we look back to see where we came from and what shaped us and how the time goes by. 

"Castle on the Hill"

When I was six years old I broke my leg
I was running from my brother and his friends
And tasted the sweet perfume of the mountain grass I rolled down
I was younger then, take me back to when I

Found my heart and broke it here
Made friends and lost them through the years
And I’ve not seen the roaring fields in so long, I know I’ve grown
But I can’t wait to go home.

I’m on my way 
Driving at 90 down those country lanes
Singing to “Tiny Dancer”
And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill

Fifteen years old and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes
Running from the law through the back fields and getting drunk with my friends
Had my first kiss on a Friday night, I don’t reckon I did it right
But I was younger then, take me back to when

We found weekend jobs, when we got paid
We’d buy cheap spirits and drink them straight
Me and my friends have not thrown up in so long, oh how we’ve grown
But I can’t wait to go home

I’m on my way
Driving at 90 down those country lanes
Singing to “Tiny Dancer”
And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill

One friend left to sell clothes
One works down by the coast
One had two kids but lives alone
One’s brother overdosed
One’s already on his second wife
One’s just barely getting by
But these people raised me
And I can’t wait to go home

And I’m on my way, I still remember
These old country lanes
When we did not know the answers
And I miss the way you make me feel, it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill


Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey


The Franchise Affair - book 3 in the Alan Grant series (though he is barely in this one)
by Josephine Tey
mystery 1948
kindle
finished 1/21/17 


I have never read a book like The Franchise Affair
Here is the plot. A young teenage girl goes to the police and tells them that she has been kidnapped and beaten by two women, a woman in her forties and her mother. She describes their house and grounds in great and perfect detail. The women deny everything. Can you imagine if someone accused you of such a thing and ‘knew’ your home inside out? What a horror. The reader doesn't know who is telling the truth and who isn’t for a while. There is a wonderful small town lawyer who has lived a placid, easy life with a doting aunt. Suddenly he is swept up in the case and off on the adventure of his life. Alan Grant, the Scotland yard sleuth in the first two books in the series makes very few appearances. I guess that’s about all I’ll say except that this is one great story, and you don’t need to read the others in the series first.

I read it for the Birth Year Reading Challenge 2017


and the Read Scotland 2017 challenge



though I was going to read it anyway because I am planning to read all the books in the Alan Grant series, and Tey's non-series books as well. She was a very good writer who died too early. Her real name was Elizabeth MacKintosh. You may read more about her here and here. I've just bought a recent biography of her by Jennifer Morag Henderson. My thanks go out to my blogging friend Cath for introducing the author to me. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Little Secrets cookies

This is a posting which references two earlier blog entries I've written. One is a a  'product placement' piece on Little Secrets candy. You may read it here.

The second entry is a chocolate chip cookie recipe from the Sugar in the Raw company. You may read it here.

A while ago I read someone's post on cookies made with M&Ms. Since then I've been thinking of making them with Little Secrets. I used the chocolate chip recipe just substituting Little Secrets for chocolate chips. I bought several varieties, and am making them once a week now.

Hazel Nina began going three mornings a week to a Montessori school in town. One of the days is a day Margaret works and we take care of her. So Pop brings her to school and when we pick her up and go to either her house or ours, we give her what we call 'Tuesday cookies' and milk. It's a fun little ritual.

This week I used the Dark Chocolate Raspberry variety. It was just the best feeling to not be using the horrible, cancer causing artificial colors that are in M&Ms.


I make a couple without candy for Lucy, and here she is waiting for her cookie.


And of course Hazel thinks they are great!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Today's poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Library in the Garret
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret-room
Piled high with cases in my father's name;
Piled high, packed large, - where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning's dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books! ...

The poem was in the introduction to this book, which I borrowed from my daughter.


There is a book for each of the 365 days. I think I'm going to really enjoy this. I've already peeked ahead and seen many books I've never read.

The year began with Zadie Smith's White Teeth.


From the introduction:
Think of this as a tasting menu. It is my dearest hope that each taste will send you scurrying to your bookseller or library so you can read (or reread) that book, cover to cover.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Today's video/American Nights by Plain White T's

Here's a fun video by Plain White T's from a couple years ago. I might have to buy the album!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Read Scotland 2017 Challenge

I have these five books about Scotland


on my shelves, and some of them have been there for a long time. Year after year goes by, and I don't read them. So I thought I'd sign up for Peggy Ann's Read Scotland 2017 Challenge.


All the books are set on the Hebrides, and all but the Ann Cleeves are nonfiction. I own one other book set in Scotland, written by the late Iain Banks,


and I just may read this one as well, even though I've read it twice already. I wrote a little bit about it in a book journal before I had a blog.

The book is subtitled In Search Of The Perfect Dram.This book will appeal to - the whisky fan, the fan of author Banks' fiction work, and then me, who is neither one. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was like sitting in the living room (or at a bar!) with him. The writing is rambling, his thoughts seem to be written as he thinks them. What I like especially is his passion- for life, for Scotland, for whisky, for cars, for music, for fun.

It is time I read these books, and this is the perfect way to get myself to do so. I am reading at the 1-5 level called Totie Wee. You may join here at her blog, or on her Goodreads page here

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saturday Sally/January 7


If you love Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, or Endeavour, then I want to direct you to a blog that is all about them. You may find it here. Christopher Sullivan does an amazing job of sharing all one could ever hope to know about these television shows, from reviews of individual episodes including artistic, literary, and musical references, to up to the minute articles about, or communications from, the actors. He also has a youtube channel which you may find here.

Tomorrow night on ITV the fourth series of Endeavour begins. I'll be watching via TunnelBear. It will eventually be on PBS in the US, but I've recently learned from Christopher's blog that we lose about ten minutes of the show over here. After I've seen the shows, I buy the DVDs from PBS, but they say "Full UK-Length Edition."

So that's it for the first Sally of the new year. I wanted to spotlight this one site in case fans of the shows don't know about it. For those on Facebook, he has a page there, too.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Birth Year Reading Challenge 2017


Last year I joined a little challenge offered by my PEI friend here. I read not one book. It was a great idea, but ... . I've looked at a few of the challenges offered this year, but steeled myself to be realistic and not sign up. But this one, offered by another blogging friend seems like something I might be able to participate in, and have some success with. Plus it sounds like great fun. You may read more about it here, and perhaps some of you will sign up.

I had read two books in the Alan Grant series by Josephine Tey last year. The next one in line was published in my birth year, so that will go on the list. Also, there are a few Agatha Christie books I haven't yet read, and one of them was also published then. And a year ago I bought Uncle Dynamite by PG Wodehouse, and discovered to my delight that it too is a birth year publication. So, right off the bat, there are three books for me.

The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey
Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie
Uncle Dynamite by PG Wodehouse

Oh, and if you're wondering what year - it is 1948. Yup, next year is my big 7-0! How did that happen?

Anyhow, I am looking forward to this challenge, and I thank JG for offering it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Book Facts

March - 3 books

3 mysteries

2 kindle
1 print

1 by men
2 by women

1  2000-2010
2  2011-2019


February - 3 books

3 mysteries

3 kindle

3 by men

1 1920s
1 1930s
1 1990s



January - 6 books

4 mysteries
2 nonfiction

4 kindle
2 print

4 by men
2 by women

2 1940s
1 1960s
2 1990s
1 2011-2019

Tom's 2017 Reads

April -

1. Hero of the Empire
by Candice Millard
nonfiction 2016
print
finished 4/1/17

2. Presumption of Guilt - book 27 in the Joe Gunther series
by Archer Mayor
mystery 2016
print
finished 4/21/17

Books Read in 2017

April - 

18. The Song of Hartgrove Hall - published in Great Britain as The Song Collector
by Natasha Solomons
fiction 2015
print
finished 4/27/17

17. Deadly Cove - book 7 in the Lewis Cole series
by Brendan DuBois
mystery 2011
kindle
finished 4/25/17

16. Primary Storm - book 6 in the Lewis Cole series
by Brendan DuBois
mystery 2006
kindle
finished 4/22/17

15. Killer Jam - book 1 in the Dewberry Farm series
by Karen MacInerney
mystery 2015
kindle 
finished 4/16/17

14. Buried Dreams - book 5 in the Lewis Cole series
by Brendan DuBois
mystery 2004
kindle
finished 4/12/17

13. Killer Waves - book 4 in the Lewis Cole series
by Brendan DuBois
mystery 2002
kindle
finished 4/4/17

March - 3

12. In This Grave Hour - book 13 in the Maisie Hobbs series
by Jacqueline Winspear
mystery 2017
kindle
finished 3/23/17

11. The Blackhouse - book 1 in the Lewis Trilogy
by Peter May
mystery 2009
print
finished 3/16/17

10. Death of a Chimney Sweep - book 26 in the Hamish Macbeth series
by MC Beaton
mystery 2011
kindle
finished 3/5/17

February - 3

9. Mystery in the Channel - book 7 in the Inspector French series
by Freeman Wills Crofts
mystery 1931
kindle
finished 2/28/17

8. The Starvel Hollow Tragedy - book 3 in the Inspector French series
by Freeman Wills Crofts
mystery 1927
kindle
finished 2/14/17

7. Shattered Shell -  book 3 in the Lewis Cole series
by Brendan DuBois
mystery 1999
kindle 
finished 2/5/17

January - 6

6. The Little Book of Hygge
Danish Secrets To Happy Living
by Meik Wiking
nonfiction 2016
print
finished  1/27/17

5. The Franchise Affair - book 3 in the Alan Grant (though he is barely in this one)
by Josephine Tey
mystery 1948
kindle
finished 1/21/17

4. The Crofter & The Laird
by John McPhee
nonfiction 1969
print
finished 1/19/17

3. Taken at the Flood - book 27 in the Hercule Poirot series
by Agatha Christie
mystery 1948
kindle 
finished 1/16/17

2. Black Tide - book 2 in the Lewis Cole series
by Brendan DuBois
mystery 1995
kindle
finished 1/11/17

1. Dead Sand - book 1 in the Lewis Cole series
by Brendan DuBois
mystery 1994
kindle 
finished 1/3/17

Sunday, January 1, 2017