26 December 2007

No Unibrows, Please!

"Hogmanay" is a Scots word which means "the last day of the year." The date is actually Dec. 31, but the celebration carries through the night to Jan. 1, also known as "Ne'erday." And if you're going to be in Scotland, you might as well keep partying, because Jan. 2 is a bank holiday!

There are many traditions associated with Hogmanay, not the least of which is "first footing." This is the first person to set foot across your threshhold after the stroke of midnight, often bearing gifts and best wishes for the new year. From Scotsman.com:

On the stroke of midnight it is still common for houses to be "first footed" by a tall, handsome stranger bearing gifts. Although the first-footer is seldom a stranger, it is preferable that he is dark. This harks back to days of Viking invaders when a fair-haired man knocking at your door was more likely to inspire terror than pleasure.

Until quite recently the first-footer was subject to a rather rigorous code of looks. Out-of-date now, there was a time when a first-footer should not be flat-footed, cross-eyed or have their eyebrows meeting (thought to denote the evil eye).

I'll be offline for a few days, visiting family. So Happy Hogmanay, and may your first-footer be tall, dark, handsome, and two-browed!


22 December 2007

Guest Writer: Nancie Baden

Thanks, Nancie, for giving me permission to post your poem! Happy Solstice, everyone!

Father Winter's Solstice Tale

'Tis the eve before Solstice in the evergreen woods
Not a creature is stirring, not even the Druids
Mistletoe has been sickled from the great holy tree.
Magic sprigs hung o'er doors to ward off folk wee.

Fearsome Goddess Cailleach has transformed every bower
This crone of cold stark Wintertime has stolen every flower
The villagers in fear and awe are as hidden as the light
But lo the hour is drawing close to have their Solstice Night

As day breaks on the mountaintop of frozen land so dire
Druid priests and priestesses are readying for fire
Great logs of ash are dressed in finest thistle, bay and sage.
Carried to the fields below, as bonfires they shall rage.

Children venture out of doors with wreaths of pine and ivy
And hazelnuts and fruit with cloves and singing carols lively.
Fragrances do waft on high of wassail, meat, and spice cake.
The vigilant can now rejoice as sacred King Sun does wake.

Seasons' wheel has slowly moved, the longest night does fade
The warmth returns and life renews at every hill and glade.
At Yule as icy hearts now thaw in flames of holy rebirth
Father wishes us a Good Sabbat and peace to all on our Earth

Nancie Baden

20 December 2007

Solstice Live Webcast at Newgrange!

From Newgrange.com:

For the first time ever, the 2007 Winter Solstice illumination of the passage and chamber at Newgrange will be streamed live on the internet.

The webcast and an exhibition at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the re-discovery of the Winter Solstice Phenomenon at Newgrange by Professor O’Kelly in 1967.

The Winter Solstice event from inside the chamber at Newgrange will be broadcast on the mornings of Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd December 2007. If conditions are good the rising sun will illuminate the passage and chamber between 8:58am and 9:15am GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

To view the webcast click on the Heritage Ireland website.

Edit: I watched the webcast and it is wonderful! They had perfect weather. The entire show is about an hour long, and sunrise occurs about 20 minutes in.

Thirteen Vacation Pictures, US Virgin Islands

Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI

Example of native island stonework, incorporating fossilized coral. Annenberg Sugar Plantation ruins, St. John.

Slave quarters site, Annenberg. On one hand, what a view! But on the other, the people who had this view were slave labor, harvesting and boiling down sugar cane in horrendous heat and humidity.

My husband on observation deck at St. Peter House and Botanical Garden, St. Thomas. Overlooking Magens Bay.

Unidentified sugar plantation house ruins, St. John. Some of the beautiful tile work was still visible inside.

This is what you find if you manage to navigate the twisty roads out onto the point beyond Magens Bay.

Magens Bay

If I remember correctly (was drinking rum punch at the time) this is a variety of ginger.

Flower, St. Peter House and Botanical Garden, St. Thomas

Bird of Paradise? (Correct me if I'm wrong!)

One of many intimate little beaches on St. John

Banana tree, St. Peter Botanical Garden

Annenberg Sugar Plantation ruins, St. John

18 December 2007

Review: I Am Legend


If you love Will Smith's work, as I do, you'll like I Am Legend. He is mesmerizing.

If you liked the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks, you'll probably like I Am Legend.

If you don't like a paper-thin plot stretched over too much movie, I Am Legend will make you antsy. Twenty minutes into it, my husband was squirming and muttering.

I found a lot to like about this movie, the talented Will Smith being one of them. And some parts that made me go "Awwww, now why did they have to go and do that?" I for one go to movies to escape, and I like coming out of a movie feeling better than I went in. This movie didn't do it for me.


Did you watch Snakes On A Plane? Did you hang with the movie, even enjoy the horrifying campiness of it -- until a certain small animal was sacrificed by the writers for no apparent reason, since we already hated the villian, anyway? Just warning the soft-of-heart like me.

Do you like HEA endings? Depending on your point of view, you may or may not like I Am Legend.

Dan Fogelberg, 1951-2007

17 December 2007

Scotophile Monday

Welcome back to Scotophile Monday! All sources credited. Enjoy!

First Minister's Christmas Card
Normally, there is not much media comment about the Christmas card being sent out by the Scottish First Minister. But with a new Scottish Nationalist government in power, the newspapers gave full coverage to Alex Salmond's choice of design. It has a traditional Christmas feel about it, with a full moon shining brightly over a snow covered Linlithgow Palace (birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots) and the adjacent St Michael's Church, all reflected in the loch in front of the palace. The card was designed by Scottish artist Jolomo - John Lowrie Morrison. The message inside reads: "Happy Christmas and a Guid New Year" from Alex and Moira Salmond and contains a verse from the Scottish song "The Four Marys" the story of Mary Queen of Scots' handmaidens and set inside Linlithgow Palace. The First Minister grew up in Linlithgow and the original painting for the card will be auctioned later and the proceeds donated to charity.

Unemployment Continues to Fall
Historically, unemployment levels in Scotland were always higher than in the rest of the UK. But these days the opposite is the case. Government statistics published this week show that in November, the Scottish unemployment rate stood at 4.6%, below the UK average of rate of 5.3%. The number of people in Scotland claiming the Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 700 in November to 71,700 - some 14,300 lower compared to the figures from November last year. On the UK Government's preferred measure, the International Labour Office method, the total unemployed for the three months to October was 123,000, down by 6,000 over the quarter and 14,000 over the year. The number of people in employment, at 2.549 million, was 2,000 up over the quarter to October and up 63,000 on the figure this time last year

Scots Love New York
The weak dollar and availability of more flights between Scotland and North America has meant that a record number of Scots have been flying to New York from Edinburgh and Glasgow. New York is now the number one long-haul destination from Scotland, with a total of 50,000 passengers going there in October and November, according to the airport operator BAA. The exchange rate of over $2 to the pound means that shoppers can combine a holiday with some bargain shopping. Price comparisons published in newspapers show that it is possible to buy some digital cameras £130 cheaper than in Scotland while iPhones were £76 cheaper and iPods cost £54 less. Passenger numbers could rise even further next year when Delta airlines launches daily Edinburgh-Newark flights next May, after scrapping its Edinburgh-Atlanta route in October.

Egg Farm Approved
Despite strenuous objections by a local action group, Scottish Borders Council's planning committee has approved the creation of the UK's largest poultry farm at Blythbank near West Linton. Glenrath Farms Ltd wants to build nine large, free range poultry houses, each housing 25,000 hens, producing eggs for supermarkets across the UK. Last year, the company was given the all clear by Scottish ministers to build one of the giant sheds, despite concerns by locals that this was just the "thin edge of the wedge". The scheme will now be referred to the Scottish Government for a final decision, due to environmental concerns.

Appeal for Black Watch Memorial Funds
A campaign was launched this week to restore and repair the Black Watch Memorial at The Mound in Edinburgh. The monument depicts a Highland soldier with rifle and bayonet and displays the names of members of the regiment who fell during the Boer War. It was commissioned by the Black Watch on a site donated by Bank of Scotland in 1906. In addition to dealing with decades of weathering, the plan is to replace missing features such as the soldier's bayonet. The cost of the renovation work is a modest £15,000 and Bank of Scotland is contributing £5,000 to give the project a flying start.

This Week in Scottish History
December 16 1653 - Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.
December 17 1956 - Petrol rationing was imposed following the Suez crisis and the closure of the canal.
December 18 1661 - Many Scottish historical records were lost when the ship Elizabeth of Burntisland sank off the English coast. The records had been taken to London by Oliver Cromwell and were being returned to Edinburgh.
December 18 1780 - Society of Antiquaries founded.
December 19 1904 - The "Scotsman" newspaper moves to new offices at North Bridge in Edinburgh, remaining there until 1999.
December 20 1560 - First General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
December 21 1846 - Robert Liston, who was born in Linlithgow in 1794, performed the first operation in a British hospital using anaesthetic (ether).
December 21 1988 - Pan Am 747 blew up and crashed at Lockerbie, Dumfries, killing 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 Lockerbie residents.
December 22 1715 - James Stuart, the Old Pretender, arrived at Peterhead. He stayed for only a few weeks.
December 22 1965 - Maximum speed limit of 70mph was imposed on all roads unless a lower limit was in place.
December 22 2000 - Pop mega-star Madonna married movie-producer Guy Ritchie at Skibo Castle, putting Dornoch into the media spotlight.

All of the above are from the Rampant Scotland.com newsletter.

Scottish Web Sites of the Week
Scots Language Center Lab
Celtic Counties Magazine

Blog of the Week
Fetlar School Blog

About the Isle of Fetlar: "Known as the 'garden of Shetland', the island lies to the north-west of Shetland. The island has rolling hills and is carpeted with wild flowers in the summer months and an abundance of birdlife. The 19th C Clearances removed most of the islands population, but the few remaining islanders can often trace their ancestors back for half a millennium."

Ancient Secrets Emerge from Grave
The bones of six bishops buried more than 600 years ago have been identified using new hi-tech methods. The medieval bishops, who died between 1200-1360, were discovered during an excavation at Whithorn Priory in Galloway between 1957-67. Read more

Central Scotland's Forests
BBC Scotland political reporter John Knox goes down to the woods to see how the Central Scotland Forest is growing. Read more

The Canoe Boys
In 1934 two young lads kayaked from Glasgow to Skye. Their boats were made from teak and canvas, not carbon and Kevlar. They didn't wear dry suits, but paddled in vests and kilts, pulling on canvas jackets when it rained. Their safety equipment for each was a car inner tube. They'd sit inside the partially inflated rubber ring, so if a boat capsized or broke up on rocks, they ought to be able to float away. Fortunately they didn't put that theory into practice. Read more

Whisky aficionados have long insisted that a dash of water is vital to enhance the taste of a single malt. But millions of gallons of seawater, caused by global warming, could wipe out some of the most famous names in the industry, scientists have told Scotland on Sunday. Coastal distilleries producing a range of internationally famous brands such as Bowmore, Laphroaig, Talisker and Glenmorangie are at risk from storms and encroaching waves. http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/latestnews/Dramageddon--Too-much-water.3594818.jp

Jacobite Rebels May Yet Seal Victory
Scots are no longer to be crushed as rebels. The government is considering rewriting the national anthem on the grounds that the historical third verse, which refers to the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, is not "inclusive". The words, which refer to Scots as seditious, rebellious characters who should be crushed by British forces with the assistance of God Almighty was described as "not actually that inclusive" by Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general. He is leading a citizenship review, ordered by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown - a Scot, though not a seditious one. Read more

15 December 2007

December's Samhellion now available!

The December issue of The Samhellion newsletter is now available!

Click here to read a wide variety of interesting articles and short fiction by some of Samhain Publishing's brightest and best.

This month's theme is, of course, the holidays. Check out the article on Yule traditions and lore, co-written by me and Gia Dawn. Enjoy!

Nollaig chridheil huibh!

13 December 2007

Thirteen Random Thoughts About My Vacation

I was going to post 13 vacation pictures from St. Thomas today, but as I'm still buried under post-vacation work pile-up, it'll have to wait until next week. In the meantime, 13 random tidbits from our December getaway...

1. Resolution: Never refuse to take an early December vacation just because it's the holiday season and you're "too busy." It's the best present you could ever give yourself!

2. Never forget to take off your pain patch before cracking open the Cruzan bottle on the first night. There's a reason there's a warning on the package not to mix lidocaine with alcohol. It wasn't pretty, and lesson well learned! LOL

3. When we travel, I'm always all for trying out the local cuisine. While I didn't fall in love with the "stewed" dishes (had trouble finding meat among the fat in one of them, and for some reason many dishes are covered in parmesan cheese, which to me smells like vomit), I did fall head over heels for just about anything jerk seasoned, journey cake, and friend plantains.

4. Why are there no seafood markets on an island plunked in the middle of the ocean? Why is the only seafood to be bought (outside a restaurant) found in frozen food cases?

5. I love Painkillers. (Orange juice, pineapple juice, coconut milk, freshly grated nutmeg, and rum).

6. I highly recommend snorkeling, even if you've never tried it and even if you can't swim well. I'm a natural "sinker" but the water in the Caribbean is so salty, it's easy to float. You may not even need a floatation vest - I wear one but only need a tiny bit of air in it. (Tip - invest in your own mask and snorkel, at the very least. A properly fitted masked makes all the difference.)

7. Coolest experience: Night snorkeling in Secret Harbor. I ended up paddling around off a little bit by myself in the dark, and ran across a huge sea turtle resting on the bottom. As I watched it, careful not to shine my flashlight directly into its eyes, it suddenly started floating up toward the surface. I moved to one side a few feet to give it room, and it surfaced for air just 10 feet from me.

8. Driving on St. John is not for the faint of heart. Think Tail of the Dragon (in NC) but without the benefit of guardrails.

9. Driving on St. Thomas isn't, either, but it's not as heart stopping as St. John!

10. Cruz Bay is overrated. If you're going to St. John, go prepared to explore the fabulous beaches.

11. I love talking to local people (and I'm not referring to the sour-faced hotel workers, who are without exception nothing short of rude). Always smile and say hello. At the Annenburg sugar plantation ruins, a smile and a hello garnered us an invitation to visit the under-restoration gardens, which are normally locked. The gardener's obvious pride in his heritage was as pleasurable as the aromatic plants he eagerly showed us.

12. I'm researching whether it's possible to grow a bay plant (see photo) in Ohio. Once the gardener crushed a leaf and waved it under my nose, I couldn't rest until I found a bottle of Bay Rum to take home.

13. Favorite restaurants: Gladys's Cafe (ask to be waited on by Pauline), Iggie's (good food, reasonable price, great setting), Molly Malone's (perfect seared tuna), Banana Tree (pricey, but the view...OMG, the view...), Craig & Sally's (also pricey, but the food is wonderful), and any number of tiny cafes where you can duck in for an ice-cold smoothie on a hot day.

Piccies coming next week! :)

More Thursday 13s!

12 December 2007

Check This Out...

A song from Damh the Bard's album, Herne's Apprentice. I'm acquainted with Damh through OBOD, and I love love love his music. Enjoy!

Lyrics: Song of Awen

See me as the Sun on the mountaintop,
Feel me in the power of the seas.
Hear me in the laughter of the stream,
Power of nature, power of the trees.

It is you who are broken,
You are part of me,
Some of you have awoken,
But others might never be free.

This is my song, this is my voice,
These are my words, this is my choice.
Hear me now, take heed of my words.
Love me now, and your spirit will fly.

Hear me in the howling of the wolf,
My voice is the song of the Bards,
I am the power that helps the salmon leap,
I am the very first breath of a child.

I am the wild, and I am the tame,
I am the calm and I am the storm.
I am the sound of your beating heart,
I am your blood and I am your bone.

Bridge 2:
It is you who are broken,
You are part of me,
There is no seperation,
So dance, sing and be free.

11 December 2007

Back from vacation!

Happy happy...

Vacation in St. Thomas was, as expected, completely and totally relaxing! This was our second trip to the island, and this visit was even better because we didn't feel rushed to "see everything" in our short time there. It was pretty much beaching, snorkeling, eating, and drinking rum. :) Oh, and a little shopping, of course. Not a lot of shopping, but I did come away with a wee little sparkly to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

Fun stuff - a night-time snorkel trip in Secret Harbor, St. Thomas. I highly recommend this. You see so many creatures that hide during the day, namely squid and turtles!

Icky icky...

What should have been a 6-hour flight home turned into a 12-hour annoyance of mechanical and weather related delays, capped off by a "refreshing" 1 hour waiting in a Detroit ice storm for the shuttle to take us to our car. No winter coats, of course!

Thanks to about 1,000,000 emails waiting for me in my inbox when I got home, "Scotophile Monday" got a bit lost in the shuffle this week. Sorry! I'll do a short version later today and get back into regular rotation next week!

As a contract writer, this time of year always brings about changes - contracts come to an end, which puts me back on the job hunt. With foot surgery coming up in January, though, I have no plans to seriously start hunting until February, which will give me enough time to get another manuscript finished.

What's coming up for me:

BEAUDRY'S GHOST will be released Jan. 4 in ebook, with print release tentatively slated for Oct. 28. Yes, another Halloween release! I'm delighted about that. :)

ABHAINN'S KISS print will be out in February.

Appearances: REALLY looking forward to RT Pittsburg starting April 15! It's a relatively short drive - I'm happy that I won't have to fly. I don't mind flying, but the process is becoming increasingly tedious these days - I'd rather drive.

Surgery! Getting my left foot worked on in January. Stay tuned to my blog - Vicodin should make for some verrry interesting posts! LOL

30 November 2007

Key West Magic by Ciar Cullen

I admit it. I saw the cover and read the blurb for Ciar Cullen's Key West Magic (Dec. 7, Samhain Publishing), and practically knocked her down as I wrapped my arms around her virtual legs, refusing to let go until she let me read it and review it in advance.

She graciously agreed (I think just to stop the cyber stalking, but hey, I have no shame). I adore Key West, have stood in Hemingway's writing study, experienced the sunset mayhem at Mallory Square, imbibed the local brew at Sloppy Joe's. Don't get me started on the key lime pie - it'll get embarrassing. As winter closes in, I simply couldn't wait to let Ciar take me back there with her vivid descriptions and captivating characters. Ciar didn't disappoint - as if she ever could!

Here's the blurb:


A haunted-to-the-rafters inn. A haunted heart. A sexy Irish ghostbuster must face both before he can love one woman.

Key West. An island of green on turquoise waters, populated with poets, artists, drifters, Jimmy Buffet fans—and the most stubborn ghosts imaginable.

When psychic and all-around sexy Irishman Trent Light takes on the challenge to ghost-bust Calloway House, he encounters something more than your normal, haunted-to-the-rafters inn. He butts heads with the spirit of Emily, a flapper with a sordid past and a short fuse. Emily’s guardian angel won’t let her cross to the other side until the infamous “Hemingway Mystery” is solved—a mystery Emily caused during her own lifetime.

Trent locks horns with another stubborn woman, inn owner and Key West newcomer Julie Calloway. Frustrated that the sexy Julie isn’t satisfied with being just his lover, yet unable to leave nor to commit to her, Trent is at his wits’ end. And then there’s that sentient Parrot that won’t shut up.

It’s a tough assignment, but Trent and Julie steam up the tropics as they try to solve the mysteries of Key West, of love, and of redemption.


As I read Key West Magic I kept thinking what a great movie this would make. The story, the setting, the characters draw you in and make you feel like you're in the middle of the action, observing it as it streams past you in vivid color. If you can read the opening scene and not fall in love with Trent and his brothers, I'm sorry y'all, but you have no heart!

Trent is one of those fabulously flawed heroes -- charming, endearing, sensual, sexy, to-sigh-for, hiding his battle with his inner ghosts behind a brilliant smile and devil-may-care attitude. But the boy's got Issues, and he wouldn't be the interesting, complex character he is without them. Fish-out-of-water Julie is the perfect foil for him. She's only planning to stay in Key West long enough to dispose of the B&B she inherited in a crypically worded will from her grandmother. But for the sexy Trent - her "Magic Man" (ooh la la!), she might just be willing to extend her stay.

Like Key West, Calloway House is full of mystery, ghosts...and secrets. And so are Ciar Cullen's characters. Peeling back the layers will keep you up all night reading to the very end. Sensual and erotic, Key West Magic is the perfect escape from winter's chill!


And now, I must get started packing for my own trip to a tropical paradise - a combination birthday and 25th anniversary trip to the Caribbean with my own Knight In Shining Armor. I'll be back online on Dec. 9.

29 November 2007

Thirteen Random Things That Happened On My Birthday

Aside from a number of military "massacres", natural disasters and random plane crashes that happened on my birthday (Hmm, is there a pattern there?) Nov. 29 is a fairly quiet day in history! :) It was interesting to find out the birthdays of some famous writers fall on this day:

1. Louisa May Alcott born, 1831

2. C.S. Lewis born, 1898

3. Madeleine L’Engle born, 1918

4. Margaret Tudor, English princess and Queen of James IV was born, 1489. The daughter of Henry VII of England, she became the wife of James in a political marriage known as the "Union of the Thistle and the Rose". It was through her bloodline that King James VI of Scotland was able to base his claim to the English crown on the death of his cousin, Elizabeth I.

5. Admiral Richard Byrd first to fly over South Pole, 1929

6. Thomas Edison demonstrates hand-cranked phonograph for the first time, 1877

7. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s troops occupy Carlisle and move into Manchester, 1745

8. U.S. rations coffee; Scotland rations petrol, 1942

9. Beatles release “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, 1963

10. Bill Gates coins the term “Micro-Soft” in a letter to Paul Allan, 1975.

Also this Month, pretty darned near my birthday:

11. Blackbeard killed off coast of North Carolina, Nov. 22, 1718

12. St. Andrew’s Day, Nov. 30. Patron saint of Scotland.

13. Stone of Destiny, stolen from Scone by King Edward I of England in 1296, returned to Scotland and installed in Edinburgh Castle. Nov. 30. 1996.

Bonus: It’s National Raisin Bread Month!

26 November 2007

Scotophile Monday

Welcome back to Scotophile Monday! Next week I'll be on vacation with limited web access, so if I miss next Monday's post (which is likely, anticipating the amount of rum I'll be drinking on a Caribbean beach!), I apologize in advance. No, wait, what am I apologizing for? LOL

All sources credited. Enjoy!

A History of Cruising on Loch Ness
A new book has been published which records the history of the steam boats which have sailed on Loch Ness for commerce and pleasure for more than a 180 years. The first Loch Ness steamer, Stirling Castle, was introduced in 1820 to sail between Inverness and Fort Augustus following the opening of the eastern part of the Caledonian Canal. Among the owners of that steamship were Henry Bell, who in 1812 operated Europe's first commercial steamboat on the Clyde, and Thomas Telford, who supervised the building of the canal. By the middle of the 19th century, rival companies were operating on the canal and the route became even more popular after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made the trip in 1847. Nowadays, the Jacobite Queen sails from Inverness to Urquhart Castle and there are scores of cabin cruisers rented by holidaymakers.

Deadliest Roads in the Highlands
A survey the European Road Assessment Partnership has found that eight out of ten of Scotland's worst roads can be found in the north of Scotland. The study looked at the number of serious and fatal collisions between 2000 and 2005 in relation to road length and traffic volume. It found that the A99 from Latheron to Wick came out worst and the second worst road, according to the statistics, was the A82 between Tyndrum and Tarbet - a route labelled the "gateway to the Highlands". The chairman of the Highland Council's transport, environmental and community services committee suggested that the region's geography was a contributing factor. He pointed out that the Highlands cover an area the size of Belgium but with a population of just over 200,000 and with a greater road network to manage. A spokesman for the Scottish Government said that driver behaviour, and a lack of experience, particularly among younger drivers, is often a key factor. But that is true about all parts of the country, not just the Highlands.

Hidden Car Park Plan
More than a dozen firms are said to be bidding to build and operate a hidden car park in the street in front of the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Vehicles would be lowered underground and parked and retrieved automatically. The street's existing 89 parking bays would be replaced by 100 underground spaces - leaving the historic street clear of the clutter of parked cars. t is hoped similar car parks could be built at other sites such as the West End or George Street, if the initiative proves to be a success. Similar car parks already operate in other cities across Europe such as Rome and Milan. It takes an average of just 50 seconds per vehicle to either park or retrieve a car. Work on the project is scheduled to start late next year and take 18 months to complete - creating severe disruption in the street during the building phase.

Jellyfish Invasion
Salmon farmers on the west coast of Scotland have been warned to look out for an invasion of stinging jellyfish which has already wiped out 100,000 salmon worth £1 million at a fish farm in Northern Ireland. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said it has received reports this month of millions of baby mauve stinger and compass jellyfish being seen in "blooms" off Skye, Eigg, Ullapool and in the sea near Durness in the far north of Sutherland. The creatures are normally found in the Mediterranean and are relatively harmless in small numbers. But the jellyfish can be deadly when massed in vast quantities. As well as using their sting, jellyfish can kill caged fish by using up oxygen in the water. The jellyfish in Northern Ireland covered an estimated sea area of ten square miles and 35 feet deep.

Sea Eagle Population Soars
A programme begun 30 years ago to reintroduce sea eagles into Scotland has proved to be very successful, with around 200 birds and 42 territorial breeding pairs of Britain's biggest raptor now to be seen. This year saw the numbers increase as 24 successful pairs fledged a total of 34 young birds. The numbers of sea eagles now give tourists and wildlife enthusiasts the best-ever chance of seeing these spectacular birds, which are sometimes referred to as "flying barn doors" due to their size. The birds are concentrated in Skye, Mull and the Western Isles. Their range is expanding, however, and breeding pairs have established territories as far south as the islands off Argyll and west on to the mainland in the Highland district of Lochaber. The final phase of the programme saw fifteen chicks from Norway released in Fife at the beginning of August. Up to 20 young birds will be released there each year for the next four years.

Storm Reveals More on Newark Castle
The original tower house of Newark Castle on the banks of the river Clyde at Port Glasgow dates from the 15th century and was built by the Maxwell family who were Lords of Newark until 1694. In the 1590s Patrick Maxwell added a splendid Renaissance three-storey mansion to the original building. It is not known what was on the site of Newark Castle before it was constructed, but archaeologists have been given an unexpected insight into what might have preceded the stone structure. Last year, gale-force winds damaged the roof, revealing the oak timbers. Experts discovered that the wood had pre-dated the rest of the building and it is now suspected that it was taken from an older building on the same site. The older structure may have been demolished and the timbers used in the construction in the late 15th century. A specialist in dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) will help Historic Scotland to piece the jigsaw puzzle together. Not only can the wood be precisely dated, but cut marks can be used to suggest the shape of the roof and the building from which they had been taken.

This Week in Scottish History
November 25 1835 - Steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie born in Dunfermline.
November 26 1836 - Death of John McAdam, inventor of "macadamisation" road surface with a smooth hard surface with a camber to ensure rainwater rapidly drained away.
November 27 1703 - The greatest storm on record hit Britain with the loss of 8,000 people in 24 hours.
November 28 1666 - Battle of Rullion Green on the Pentland Hills, south-west of Edinburgh, in which the King's army led by Sir Tam Dalyell defeated the Covenanters.
November 29 1489 - Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England was born. She later married King James IV of Scotland in the "Union of the Thistle and the Rose". It was due to her bloodline that King James VI of Scotland was able to inherit the crown of England in 1603, after the death of his cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
November 29 1599 - Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons granted its charter by King James VI.
November 30 - St Andrew's Day - patron saint of Scotland.
November 30 1872 - World's first international football (soccer) match, Scotland V England at West of Scotland Cricket Ground. Result was 0-0.
November 30 1944 - HMS Vanguard, Britain's biggest and last battleship, was launched at Clydebank.
November 30 1996 - Stone of Destiny, stolen from Scone by King Edward I of England in 1296, returned to Scotland and installed in Edinburgh Castle.
December 1 1787 - First lighthouse in Scotland opened (at Kinnaird Head, Fraserburgh). It was built by Thomas Smith and Robert Stevenson.
December 1 1966 - Hurricane-force winds caused widespread damage.

Poetry Corner
When Charlie to the Highlands Came
by Robert Allan (1774-1841)

When Charlie to the Highlands came,
It was a' joy and gladness,
We trow'd na that our hearts sae soon
Wad broken be wi' sadness.

Oh! why did Heaven sae on us frown,
And break our hearts wi' sorrow;
Oh! it will never smile again,
And bring a gladsome morrow!

Our dwellings, and our outlay gear,
Lie smoking, and in ruin;
Our bravest youths, like mountain deer,
The foe is oft pursuing.

Our home is now the barren rock,
As if by Heaven forsaken;
Our shelter and our canopy,
The heather and the bracken.

Oh! we maun wander far and near,
And foreign lands maun hide in;
Our bonnie glens, we lo'ed sae dear,
We daurna langer bide in.

Meaning of unusual words:
trow'd na = didn't believe
outlay gear = stock of furniture and implements
maun = must
daurna langer bide in = dare no longer live in

Web Site of the Week
A Compendium of Lachlan's Laws

The above are from the Rampand Scotland newsletter.

Scottish Blog of the Week
Arnish Lighthouse Observations on life on the Isle of Lewis from a recent transplant's point of view.

Video of the Week
To Hell and Back Follow the journey of Scotland's top climber Dave MacLeod as he attempts to ascend Hell's Lum in the Cairngorms. This programme was made by Triple Echo Productions for BBC Sport Scotland.

Hotels Told To Raise Prices
Hotel operators and guesthouse owners across Scotland have been told to raise prices during peak periods to cash in on demand from visitors. VisitScotland's chairman, Peter Lederer, said accommodation providers who found themselves booked up months in advance should do all they can to maximise income. And he has called for tourism workers to stop apologising for the cost of a visit to Scotland and instead talk up the value for money on offer. Read more

The Unknown Soldier
Hamish Henderson fought for his country, paved the way for a Scottish parliament, started the Fringe festival and wrote some of the country's greatest songs and poems. Story by Timothy Neat

24 November 2007

On the bright side...

On one hand, eating Thanksgiving dinner made me sick as a dog. (That's what happens when you're on Weightwatchers and you're used to small portions - overindulging hits you hard!)

On the other, it was at my brother-in-law's house, so I have no leftovers lurking in my fridge to tempt me into continued overeating!

I've also been graced with my first upper respiratory infection of the winter season. Lovely. Hopefully I'll be over it before I have to get on a plane next Saturday for (drum roll) our 25th anniversary trip to St. Thomas! Until then I won't be poking my head outside in order to eliminate the risk of picking up some OTHER bug. For me, colds = clogged ears, which also = acute pain on airplanes. So bad that last spring I stayed home from vacation by myself rather than get on a plane to New Mexico. :(

I hope you're having a nice holiday weekend. On one hand, I'm tucked in with blankets, fuzzy slippers and my anti-sniffles toddy of hot tea, lemon, honey and a splash of Uisge Beatha. [grin] On the other, um, what's the downside? Can't think of one... ;)

19 November 2007

Scotophile Monday

Welcome back to Scotophile Monday! All sources credited. Enjoy!

500th Anniversary of Sword of State
A reception was held in Edinburgh Castle on Tuesday to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Sword of State of Scotland. The sword was presented to King James IV in 1507 as a gift from Pope Julius II, and is one of the three elements of the Honours of Scotland - Scotland's Crown Jewels. The other elements are the Crown and the sceptre. In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell ordered that all regalia should be broken up. However, the Scottish Crown Jewels were hidden in Dunnottar Castle and successfully smuggled out to Kinneff Parish Church, when the castle was besieged. The jewels were again hidden after the Act of Union, when they were locked in a chest and lay forgotten in Edinburgh Castle. That was until 1819 when a group, which included Sir Walter Scott, set out to recover them. The Sword is now on permanent display in the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle. It is 1.4 metres long with images of St. Peter and St. Paul etched into the blade. The silver gilt handle incorporates overlapping oak leaves and acorns taken from the Pope's coat of arms. The Scottish crown jewels are the oldest set of Crown Jewels in the British Isles and second oldest in Europe

Scotland "Independent in 10 Years"
On the day before the Scottish National Party (SNP) published its first budget and economic strategy, First Minister Alex Salmond boldly predicted that Scotland would be "independent in 10 years." Previously, he has been reluctant to put a time-scale on the nationalist aspiration for Scotland leaving the United Kingdom. His declaration comes not long after an opinion poll, organised by the Scottish Centre for Social Research, suggested that only 23% supported independence, its lowest point in 10 years. The bill bringing forward a referendum on independence is unlikely to be passed in the Scottish Parliament as Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats oppose it. But the SNP will be hoping to win more seats at the next elections in 2011 and would then be free to go ahead with a referendum. Whether there would be a majority of Scots voting for independence in such a poll at that time will depend on a lot of factors.

Recycling Target Ahead of Schedule
The slow speed with which the UK has implemented recycling of household waste has resulted in the country being dubbed the "dustbin of Europe". In 2001, we recycled just 5% of our municipal waste. But local authorities have been galvanised into action in recent years - the threat of European Union financial penalties providing a better motivation than thoughts of "saving the planet". Now, Scotland is already close to the 2008 target of recycling 30% of waste. Recycling figures for the latest quarter - April to June 2007 - reached 33.4 per cent. The area with the highest recycling rate in the most recent quarter was Moray, which recycled 46.6% of its waste but Glasgow recycled the least, at only 19.5%. Britain is still sending more waste to landfill than any other country in the European Union - some countries recycle twice as much as in the UK.

Campaign to Save Islands in Decline
Representatives from most of Scotland's 95 inhabited isles met on Mull this week to establish the "Scottish Islands Federation," to lobby for action on the problems facing these remote communities (where a total of around 100,000 people live). There was a call for the appointment of a government minister dedicated to promoting island interests and, if possible, a committee at Holyrood to monitor progress. A major concern is the long-running decline in the numbers living on the islands, with many young people leaving for jobs on the mainland, leaving behind aging communities hovering on the brink of extinction. The population of Lewis has fallen from 24,000 in 1961 to below 20,000 in 2001. However, other islands have seen an increase - Orkney has risen from 13,495 in 1961 to 15,315 in 2001 as a result of the oil boom. And Skye has seen its population go up from 7,478 in 1961 to 9, 232, much of it in recent years as a result of the Skye road bridge which removed the need for a ferry crossing.

Visitor Center Takes the Biscuit
The first-ever visitor centre dedicated only to "shortbread" opened this week in Huntly in Aberdeenshire. Shortbread is a type of biscuit (cookie) which is traditionally made from one part white sugar, two parts butter, and three parts plain white flour. Shortbread is so named because of its crumbly texture (from an old meaning of the word short). The cause of this texture is its high fat content, provided by the butter. The new centre has been created by Dean's of Huntly, which began 30 years ago when Helen Dean began making shortbread to raise funds for Huntly Pipe Band. Now the firm is the number one Scottish retail brand of shortbread, employing more than 140 people, with a turnover approaching £7 million.

This Week in Scottish History
November 19 1600 - King Charles I born.
November 19 1960 - "National Service" which required all fit young men to train in the armed forces, was brought to an end.
November 20 1863 - Death of James Bruce (8th Lord Elgin) who had served as Governor-General of Canada (1847-54) and India (1862-63). As a special envoy to China he burned down the emperor's Summer Palace in Beijing, destroying countless works of art, in order to induce the emperor to sign a treaty.
November 21 1673 - King James VII married Mary of Modena.
November 21 1835 - Poet James Hogg, the Ettrick shepherd, died in Ettrick.
November 21 1918 - German battle fleet surrendered to the allies at Scapa Flow in Orkney.
November 21 1958 - Construction began on the Forth Road Bridge.
November 22 1515 - Birth of Mary of Guise, the French Queen Consort of James V. She was regent of Scotland during the minority reign of her daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots.
November 23 1332 - Edward Balliol formally acknowledged King Edward III of England as his feudal superior.
November 23 1909 - Historical novelist Nigel Tranter born in Glasgow. He was the most prolific Scottish writer of all time, writing mainly factual and fictional books related to Scottish history.
November 24 1331 - David II (aged 7) crowned at Scone.
November 24 1572 - John Knox, leading reformer of Church of Scotland, died.

Delay for Culloden Visitor Center
The Battle of Culloden in 1746 lasted for about an hour, but the recreation of the sights and sounds of the conflict in the new Culloden Visitor Centre has resulted in lengthy delays to the opening of the new facility. The National Trust for Scotland had originally planned to have the new state-of-the-art centre, beside the battlefield east of Inverness, open in April of this year, in time for the main tourist season. The replacement centre features the "ghosts" of more than 50 characters who witnessed events surrounding the 1746 battle in which the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart was crushed by the Duke of Cumberland's government forces. Digitally-created images will guide visitors through the horror of 1746 by way of groundbreaking audio-visual technology, using a personally-controlled directional sight and sound system. It is this which has resulted in the opening being delayed "until August" and then "early November". The existing visitor centre closed last weekend and the new one is now expected to open its doors in "late November".

Scottish Inventions
Radar - Sir Robert Watson-Watt (1892-1973)
Born in Brechin as Watson Watt (without the hyphen) and a direct descendant of the inventor James Watt, he developed an early interest in radio waves. After World War I, he began to look into how aircraft could be detected by the distortion of radio signals. The basic principles of radio-wave reflection and electromagnetic waves had been established by another Scot, James Clerk Maxwell. "Radar" was short for "radio detecting and ranging" and radar development was first started elsewhere. But Watt created the first workable radar system, turning the theory into one of the most important war-winning weapons. Watson Watt became the superintendent of the radio division of the National Physics Laboratory in Teddington. By 1936 his radio stations were able to detect aircraft up to 70 miles away. It was due to the network of radar stations he proposed that the over-stretched resources of the RAF were able to be in the right place at the right time, as Luftwaffe aircraft streamed over the English Channel during the Battle of Britain from August to October 1940. Watt went on to develop airborne interception radar that helped night fighters detect attacking bombers in the dark. In 1942 Watson-Watt (he had hyphenated his name by this time) was awarded a knighthood.

All of the above are from the Rampant Scotland.com newsletter.

Scottish Film
Video and audio clips. Many vintage. Scotland on Film

The real Jacobite rising of 1745 ended in disaster. Could you do any better? Find out!

On This Day
Scottish History day by day. RSS feed available.

Scotland's Unsigned Music Podcast
Scotland Introducing

Battle Royal Over "Ancient" Salmon Fishing Rights
MORE than 600 years ago the tiny fishing hamlet of Inverbervie was elevated to the privileged status of a Royal Burgh by a grateful King David II after local fishermen came to his rescue when his ship was wrecked on the rugged Mearns coastline. The Royal decree he granted in 1342 gave villagers the right to "tak reid fish" - salmon - from the mouth of the River Bervie which flows into the North Sea at the Kincardineshire town. But now furious residents claim their ancient fishing rights are under threat from plans by the Dee District Salmon Fisheries Board to bring in the angling association from nearby Stonehaven to run the fishery on a stretch of the river where it is claimed locals have been poaching salmon by using illegal lead weighted lines to "rip" the fish from the water. Read more

15 November 2007

13 Pictures From Rampant Scotland's 2008 Calendar

I don't mind giving Rampant Scotland's web site free publicity, because I just love it so much. [grin]

Following are 13 pictures from those you can choose from to make your own Scotland 2008 calendar.

See more Thursday Thirteens!

12 November 2007

Scotophile Monday

Welcome back to Scotophile Monday! All sources credited. Enjoy!

Greyfriar's Bobby in Walk of Fame
Greyfriars Bobby, who gained fame for his loyalty by sitting beside his master's grave in Edinburgh's Greyfriars churchyard for 14 years, has been included in the world's first Walk of Fame for dogs. This has been created in London's Battersea Park as a canine equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. The first canine stars to be honoured include Lassie, Gromit, Toto from the Wizard of Oz, Chance and Shadow from The Incredible Journey, Bullseye from Oliver! and Fang from the Harry Potter films. More dogs will be added each year. Every dog chosen to join the Walk of Fame will be honoured by a bench and a plaque - but no pawprints in cement.

Birds Influence Wind Turbine Development
Seven whooper swans have being tracked by satellite by the BBC's Autumnwatch TV series as they flew from their summer breeding grounds in Iceland, on their 500-mile journey to the south-west of Scotland on the Solway Firth. Previously, only the start and end of the birds' migration had been known and not the path that they followed. It is hoped that the information can assist in deciding the location of wind turbine developments, to avoid creating an extra hazard for the birds. So far, there appear to be two main tracks - making landfall at Caithness and flying down through central Scotland and another coming down the Western Isles. Whooper swans travel in family parties with the cygnets born earlier in the year. The satellite tracking of one group found that the two adults and four of their cygnets arrived at the Solway Firth together - but another youngster was missing. It was thought it had perished along the way - until a whooper cygnet in Mull was spotted and its identification ring showed it was the missing bird. Although it is unlikely to be reunited with its family, it may latch on to other whooper swans as they pass over. Around 10,000 birds fly into Britain each winter, mainly from Iceland.

Don't Carry a Bow and Arrow in York
A TV channel has drawn up a list of UK legislation which has never been repealed and now looks decidedly strange today. One of the laws permits the murder of any Scotsman carrying a bow and arrow within the city walls of York in northern England! Another bans eating mince pies on Christmas Day - legislation that dates back to the 17th century and was designed to outlaw gluttony. There is also a law that says that it is an act of treason to place a postage stamp upside-down on a letter, as all such stamps show the portrait of the British monarch. And in Scotland, there is a law which says that if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of your toilet, you must let them enter. But perhaps the daftest legislation, which must have been crazy when it was passed, is one that makes it illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament in London. The news report didn't specify what the penalty was for breaking that rule...

Glamis Castle Wins Two Awards
Glamis Castle in Angus is a popular tourist attraction with its magnificent building, stunning apartments full of period furniture and paintings, a long history which continued in the 20th century as the birthplace of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The estate also includes some glorious gardens and walks through the tall trees of the arboretum. In recent years Strathmore Estates has invested in additional facilities for visitors and extended the season into the winter months. All that effort has paid off this year with its elevation to VisitScotland’s exclusive five-star classification, which has been awarded to just over 40 locations across the country. In addition, Glamis also achieved remarkable success in the Green Tourism Business Scheme, going straight in at gold level this year.

This Week in Scottish History
November 11 1918 - Armistice Day - World War I ends on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
November 12 - St Machar Day, patron saint of Aberdeen.
November 13 1093 - King Malcolm III (Canmore), last of the Celtic kings was killed at the Battle of Alnwick. Succeeded by Donald III.
November 13 1715 - Battle of Sheriffmuir in which a force of Jacobites led by John, 6th Earl of Mar, fought an inconclusive battle against a Hanoverian force led by John, 2nd Duke of Argyll.
November 13 1850 - Novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson born Edinburgh.
November 13 1939 - The first bombs dropped on British soil in the Second World War fell on the Shetland Islands.
November 14 1770 - James Bruce discovered the source of the Blue Nile, Lake Tana in north-west Ethiopia.
November 14 1896 - Speed limit for "horseless carriages" was raised from 4mph (2mph in towns) to 14mph.
November 14 1916 - Author Hector Munro died in action in France. Some of his work was written under the pseudonym "Saki".
November 15 1715 - The "Glasgow Courant", the city's first newspaper, appeared for the first time.
November 15 1824 - Edinburgh's Great Fire began - and lasted until 17th November. It destroyed the High Street, Parliament Square and the Tron Kirk.
November 15 1873 - Statue to Greyfriar's Bobby, who stayed by his master's grave for 14 years was unveiled.
November 16 1891 - Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show opened in the East End Exhibition Buildings, Duke Street, Glasgow.
November 17 1855 - David Livingstone reached Victoria Falls in Africa.
November 17 1959 - Prestwick and Renfrew airports in Scotland became the first in the UK to offer duty free goods for sale

All of the above are from RampantScotland.com

Scottish Web Sites of the Week
Clan Currie
National Library of Scotland

Pedalling Around
Follow the adventures and video diaries of Mark Beaumont of Fife, who is attempting to ride his bike around the world. Read/view more

Who Ate All The Pie? Uh, We Did...
Robert Ross, a man with a keen eye for a pie, slices into the sample in front of him: "You're looking for a nice, crisp, straight shell. This one looks appetising, it's nicely baked." His knife reveals ... perhaps not quite Burns's "gushing entrails bricht", but certainly a glistening mince filling. Read more

Scottish Blog of the Week
Hermit Life


10 November 2007

It's Something Special...

...when you get comments like these from a colleague, especially an award-winning one like Ciar Cullen.

Even if I do feel compelled to go out an buy a pair of safety glasses. LOL Read on for her comments about WILDISH THINGS:

I love the title. I mean, really, what a good title. And a great cover--knew if was by Anne Cain--didn't even have to read the credit. So, I used to like Carolan Ivey, as well as someone likes a friendly colleague virtually, you know? Now I simply want to scratch her eyes out. There's only so much plot you're going to get moving in a novella, and this one is short. Of course, there's only so much plot you need, as well, to get the hero and heroine together, in bed, and in love. There was a really nice twist in this one. The Hag. The Cailleach, brought to us in small intervals, exposed bit by bit until we believe in her along with the protagonists. This is a difficult book for me to describe. The characters were great, although Kellan's bad-boyness was rescued just in the nick of time to make me love him. Beith is a great character.

The setting is lovely and magical. There are so few books about magical happenings that feel magical. That's it--this had the feel of a child's fairy tale, like a lushly illustrated child's book, except painted with words. And, of course, the hot steamy sex. I'm not sure how it was done, which is the beauty of Ms. Ivey's writing, of course. Made it look easy, and I know damn well it isn't. Her writing is smooth, flawless, like a sparkling stream, carrying a bit of your imagination along with it. The dialog sparkled with humor as well.

Whether you're Irish American (in which case this is a must read), or simply like fairy tales for adults, or like erotic romance...I'm having trouble figuring out who wouldn't like this book! I wish I had more to say about it, but perhaps it charmed me somehow.

--Ciar Cullen



09 November 2007

Let's Do The Time Warp!

My sister pointed me to this blog post, and I can't resist passing it on.

I know the fact I find it hilarious totally dates me, but who cares. It's funny. Enjoy!

08 November 2007

Thirteen Samhain Books On My TBR List

1. Key West Magic by Ciar Cullen

2. Secret Thoughts: Erotique

3. Gloria Wiederhold's Ellan Vannin series

4. Grace Under Pressure by Melissa Schroeder

5. Realm Immortal series by Michelle Pillow

6. Go Between by Dayna Hart

7. Winter's Daughter by J.C. Wilder

8. Nuermar's Last Witch by A.E. Rought

9. A Chance to Dream by Lynne Connolly

10. Mountain Magic by Willa Okati

11. Heart of a Lion by Kira Stone

12. Hearts Unbound by Rebecca Goings

13. The Assassin Journals: Hunter by S.L. Partington

So what say you? Which one should I read first? :)

See more Thursday Thirteens here!

06 November 2007

Beaudry's Ghost, coming Jan. 4

It's official - Beaudry's Ghost is "coming soon" on the Samhain site! Click here. Many thanks to Dawn Seewer for the amazing cover!

05 November 2007

Scotophile Monday

Whew! After a busy couple weeks where I had to put Scotophile Monday on the back burner, it's nice to be back. This is where I pull together snippets of news, humor, web sites and nonsense of the tartan persuasion. All sources credited. Enjoy!

Black Watch Sells Out In NY
The award-winning National Theatre of Scotland's gritty production "Black Watch" has sold out in New York after rave reviews. The play, which focuses on Scots soldiers of the regiment in Iraq, did well when it was performed in Los Angeles, but there had been concerns that its Scottish accents - and occasional digs at the US military - might put off audiences in New York. Instead, the New York Times gave it top billing, describing it as "one of the most richly human works to have emerged from this war". Read more

Say It Ain't So!
It is surprising that with the Scottish National Party in government in the Scottish Parliament and its leader, Alex Salmond, riding high in the popularity stakes, research published this week claimed that support for an independent Scotland "has fallen to its lowest point in 10 years." The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey has been carried out annually over the past 10 years. It has measured support for an independent Scotland between 2004 and 2006 at between 30% and 35%. But this year, of 1,300 people selected at random and interviewed between May and August, only 23% registered support for independence. Read more

Rest and Be Thankful Closed
The main road between Loch Lomond and Loch Fyne in Argyll has been closed since last weekend after hundreds of tonnes of rock and mud fell onto the road at Rest and Be Thankful - the highest point on the route. Torrential rain at the weekend, with just under an inch on Saturday night, also caused subsidence below the road. Inveraray and the Mull of Kintyre can now only be accessed from the north - resulting in traffic from Glasgow and central Scotland having to go on a detour which adds around 35 miles to the usual route. Read more

Robert the Bruce Statue for Aberdeen
Aberdeen was one of the cities to shelter King Robert the Bruce when he was deposed by King Edward I's army in 1307. In return, King Robert the Bruce issued the Greater Charter in 1319 and granted Aberdeen the Forest of Stocket (now Mid Stocket) in feu. The money generated by the Forest has been used to create the Common Good Fund which has helped to build some of the city's great landmarks such as Marischal College, Aberdeen Art Gallery, the Central Library, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Hazlehead Park. Now, Aberdeen City Council is commissioning a monument to King Robert the Bruce to commemorate the 700th Anniversary of his inauguration and to celebrate his contribution to the city. Read more

Bottle Imp
The Bottle Imp online magazine is published by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies to promote and support Scottish literature and language. But this is no dry academic production - it's full of fascinating background and articles. There's an item, for example, on the first ever Scottish literary character - Calgacus, who turns up in Tacitus' life of Roman Emperor Julius Agricola, prior to the battle of Mons Graupius. He is there to add a touch of nobility to the barbarian horde, before the legionnaires win a resounding victory (according to the Romans). The item on the Scots word "gloaming" also caught my eye. This Old English word for twilight seems to have survived in Scotland, perhaps as a result of us having longer hours of daylight after the sun has set - and Sir Harry Lauder going roamin' in the gloamin' probably helped too! Bottle Imp

Final Effort to Save "City of Adelaide"
The "City of Adelaide" is the only sailing ship built to give regular passenger and cargo service between Europe and Australia that still survives. Between 1864 and 1887, she brought out emigrant families and goods vital for the survival of the young colony in Adelaide. The ship has been stored for many years on a slipway in Irvine in Scotland and, despite many efforts to save her, permission has been granted to "deconstruct" the ship, thus losing an important link with the past. A final effort is being made, however, by South Australia’s own Clipper Ship "City of Adelaide" Preservation Trust to develop a viable plan to relocate the ship. Read more

Roman Tombstone Uncovered
The first Roman tombstone discovered in Scotland for over 170 years has been unearthed by an amateur archaeologist in a field near Inveresk in East Lothian. The Latin-inscribed sandstone monument was for a man called Crescens who was a bodyguard for the governor who ran the province of Britain for the Roman Emperor. Dating from between 140 and 180AD, it features a "barbarian" - possibly a local Scot being attacked by a cavalryman. The tombstone has been described as the most important Roman discovery in Scotland since the Cramond Lioness, a white sandstone lioness statue found in the mud of the River Almond 10 years ago. Read more

This Week in Scottish History
November 4 1774 - Poet and song writer Robert Allan was born in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire.
November 4 1965 - Pop star Lena Zavaroni was born. Her biggest hit was "Ma, He's Making Eyes at Me".
November 5 1877 - Opening of the original Mitchell Library, Glasgow, now the largest public reference library in Europe.
November 5 1879 - Death of Edinburgh-born mathematician and physicist James Clerk Maxwell.
November 6 1887 - Celtic Football Club formally constituted in Calton, Glasgow, to alleviate poverty in Glasgow's East End parishes.
November 7 1974 - Writer Eric Linklater died in Orkney.
November 8 1308 - Scholar and philosopher John Duns Scotus died. His dry subtleties led to the word "Duns" or "dunce" meaning dull and incapable of learning. Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993.
November 8 1736 - First regular public theatre in Scotland opened in Carrubber's Close, Edinburgh.
November 8 1891 - Author Neil M Gunn born in Caithness. Best known for "Highland River" (1937) and "Silver Darlings" (1951).
November 9 1847 - In Edinburgh, Sir James Young Simpson delivered Wilhelmina Carstairs while chloroform was administered to the mother, the first child to be born with the aid of anaesthesia.
November 9 1937 - Ramsay MacDonald, first UK Labour Prime Minister, died aboard "Reina del Pacifico".
November 10 1871 - Journalist Henry M Stanley found the missing Scottish missionary David Livingstone with the classic "Dr Livingstone, I presume?"

Spirit of the Glen
In 1972, a recording of "Amazing Grace" by the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards swept to the top of the pop charts. It remained there for five weeks. Now, 35 years later, the same regimental pipe band has signed a £1 million contract with a major record company. Their CD, "The Spirit of the Glen" will be released in late November and the hope is that it will top the charts again. In addition to traditional Scottish tunes, including a reprise of "Amazing Grace", the new compilation includes easy-listening hits such as Rod Stewart's "Sailing" and Paul McCartney's "Mull of Kintyre". The album was recorded by regular soldiers in Scotland's only tank regiment between tours of duty in Iraq. All royalties are being donated to military charities. Read more

Web Page of the Week:
Browse the video vault below to enjoy a selection of music from the first episode on Scottish identity. Many tunes are presented as full-length extended edits created for the web." Pride & Passion: Scotland's Music

Orkney beast 'similar to Nessie'
A mystery creature washed up on Orkney almost 200 years ago was "strikingly similar" to descriptions of Nessie, the Highlands Science Festival will hear. Geneticist Dr Yvonne Simpson, who hails from Orkney, has researched the Stronsay Beast. Its carcass, which some said was that of a basking shark, was found off Stronsay in 1808. Dr Simpson said the descriptions of its long neck were along the lines of those of the Loch Ness Monster. Read more

Blog of the Week
Diary of a Deckhand, mainland Orkney.

Go Potty In The Garden
Winter is coming - and if you haven't already gone potty, now is the time to do it.
Containers, window boxes and tubs don't have to lie dormant during the winter months - garden centres are bursting with colourful shrubs and evergreens to see your garden through the long, dull days ahead. Read more (Um, what did you think this one was about??)

Essay: My Little Piece of Scotland
MY FAVOURITE place in Scotland is the island of Staffa. It is off the coast of Mull. You get to it by ferry from Fionnphort. On the day I went, the weather was sunny and the water sparkled like diamonds. From the ferry I saw seals and their pups. We were able to get very close to them and the driver of the boat took us round their island twice. The seals looked back at us as if they thought we were strange creatures from another planet. We also saw a minke whale but it dived down and disappeared for ten minutes before coming back up for air. My dad spotted some porpoises on the way to Staffa and I saw some four-ringed jellyfish. Staffa is a small island with cliffs that look as if they're thrusting out of the sea like arrows through the air. Read more

03 November 2007

Gettin' outta town!

I've run away. [grin]

After the madness of the Dunvegas and Love & Lore releases back to back (I've typed so much in the past month I think my fingerprints are gone), I abandoned my laptop and have run away to North Carolina for a few days.

It's my Mom's birthday today! She's going to cook flounder for me. What, you think she'd let ME cook in her kitchen? Not hardly...

Back in a few days!

02 November 2007

Catch Me On Raven Blog Today!

I'm guesting over on the Raven Blog today! Big thanks to Michelle Pillow and Mandy Roth for the invite.