Monday, May 12, 2014
Holiday catch up
The Trowie Mound Murders' which was a very nice way to spend an afternoon) bought as many as I read (didn't read as many as I took - and for everybody who said more books than knickers - my mother is shocked by you all) from a couple of excellent local bookshops ( Main Street Books in St Boswells and Masons of Melrose).
We were staying in the depths of the countryside in a house that has a garden that turns into a wood - walking around the garden was almost like proper exercise, it was also chock full of wildlife - I saw a live badger, a deer, about a hundred pheasants, and there were house martins nesting above the windows (lying on the sofa gave an excellent view of them) so it was all very idyllic indeed. Even more so when you consider the excellent bookshops within easy striking distance and the very good brewery just down the road. Beer isn't absolutely my thing though so I used the time to finally master the art of sabrage (knocking the top off a bottle of champagne with a sabre - or a large kitchen knife as I don't have a sabre). It's not difficult but there's a knack to it that I struggle with.
Basically you need to hit the neck of the bottle at it's weakest point - where the seem that runs up the side meets the lip - with something reasonably heavy. If you apply sufficient force the cork and the top of the neck fly out and everyone watching is suitably impressed, if you close your eyes, twist the knife so not enough force is applied, and generally behave like a bit of a girl (because it's not the most sensible way to open a bottle) it doesn't and nobody is impressed. I got there in the end though, even so I declined to open the really good champagne this way.
We also saw some pretty impressive architecture on the way up to Scotland - Cragside in Northumberland which I've wanted to visit for upwards of 20 years was well worth the wait. It was the first house anywhere to have electric lighting, and is just overall a stunning Victorian fantasy place. We will be going back. We also saw Seaton Delaval - designed by Vanbrugh who when he wasn't architecting was a soldier, a spy, a play write, and generally a very busy man indeed (it seems unlikely that he spent much time asleep on sofas in the afternoon). In Scotland there was Dryburgh abbey - what's left of it (excellent stonework and Walter Scott is buried there) and Mellerstain house which is classic Adams. Some scones may have been consumed as well.
Meanwhile back at home there were 3 books waiting for me, all very exciting. There's Jen Hadfield's Byssuss and the new L M Montgomery's (due out in June so I'm feeling a little smug about these) from Virago. The last were a particularly nice surprise to come home to.