January 19th, 2010

Who's Queen?

Scottish Rural Affairs

Two books set in rural Scotland, two very different detectives trying to get at the truth behind superstition and religious mania in a remote village.
Bury her Deep by Catriona McPherson was part of a lovely Christmas present which means I have all the Dandy Gilver mysteries currently in paperback. My advice though: if you’re thinking of trying the books, don’t start with this one. Dandy is called in by Mr Tait, a charming minister, to investigate strange goings-on in his village. A 'dark stranger' has been attacking women on their way home from 'the Rural', the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute. Is the phenomenon caused by misogyny (men not liking their wives out in the evening)? Has the disturbance of an ancient burial ground brought bad luck? Or is it just mischief? Dandy has her work cut out dealing with the taciturn villagers, some of whom mysteriously deny that anything is happening at all. And why does Mr Tait seem to know so much more than he’s telling?

I found the book slow to start and then began to feel that I was reading the same chapter over and over again. As usual, I wanted to see more of Alec; 'my Watson' Dandy calls him. I'd even have liked more Hugh. Towards the end events speed up and get so nasty that I was sorry I was reading it in bed. Unsatisfactory compared with the earlier books but as well written as ever. I particularly liked the clever management of the skipping song theme which gives the book its title.

No need to complain of lack of incident in Death of a Village by M C Beaton. The flame-haired Highland detective Hamish Macbeth survives three attempts on his own life, saves the lives of several other people and solves four cases apart from the main mystery of the book. All this in the author’s usual hectic, staccato style. Phew!

I knew I had a book somewhere about the Scottish Rural and here it is, published in 1938. All the recipes were provided by members and pretty depressing they are. The very first is for Barley Soup, the second for Beef-Tea (Invalid) and the next for Broth Without Meat Of Any Kind. I was intrigued to see that the book begins with ‘Mottoes’ which include The Selkirk Grace. This was used in the Christmas episode of Outnumbered!
"Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some can eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit."

Dirty Old River: London in the 1960s

Thanks to a link from reelmolesworth on Twitter, I’ve been mesmerized by this wonderful slideshow on Flickr. It's so great that someone recorded these images, to make an archive of daily life on the streets. When the photos were taken, who knew that one day I’d be saying, 'Look out for the Woodbines ad and the Green Shield Stamps, J Lyons and the man with the barrow. And the scooters!' As for the shots of the docks, I was nearly swooning with nostalgia. There’s *lots* of it, so give yourself time. I’d like Battersea Power Station for my desktop.