30 June 2008

Celtophile Monday

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

Homecoming 2009
First Minister Alex Salmond this week unveiled the nationwide programme for "Homecoming 2009" which will include over 100 events to celebrate Scotland's first ever year of Homecoming. Inspired by the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns, Homecoming 2009 will be a celebration of the great contributions Scotland has made to the world. It's also a chance for Scots around the globe to reconnect and engage with their heritage. The programme of events has been organised around five main themes - the Bard himself, Whisky, Golf, Great Scottish Minds and Innovations and Scotland's culture and heritage. Highlights include a Burns 250th anniversary weekend, including a campaign to create the world's biggest "virtual Burns Supper" celebration. For more information, visit the Homecoming Scotland 2009 web site.

Looking for a Job? Hit the Highlands!
Recruitment agencies in the north of Scotland are reporting a looming employment crisis as the number of migrant workers seeking jobs there has fallen dramatically. Last year, 2,000 people from east European countries registered for work in the Highlands; this year, the numbers are down to below 1,500. There are reports of a 60% drop in the number of agricultural workers from Eastern Europe seeking work in the area. A combination of factors has led to the fall in numbers - the falling value of the pound and improved employment prospects and wages in Eastern Europe. The exchange rate between sterling and Polish zlotys, for example, has moved from six to the pound to four. This has discouraged migrant workers from coming here and encouraged those who are here to return home. The cost of living in the Highlands, particularly travel costs, has also acted as a deterrent. Even the poor weather is being blamed, with less sunshine here than on the continent.

£17 Million Burns Heritage Revamp
The project to refurbish the thatched cottage where Robert Burns was born in 1759 and create a modern museum to Scotland's national poet took a step forward this week with the announcement of a £5.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.The Scottish Government has already pledged £5.5 million and South Ayrshire Council has provided land worth £2.8 million. But the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is still looking for funding to plug a £5 million gap in the finances. NTS was asked to take over the project when an earlier £7 million project to save the cottage and museum in Alloway collapsed in January 2005. Since then, costs have soared to a total of £17 million. It is hoped to have the cottage and some related projects will be finished in time for the Homecoming 2009 celebrations next year, when the 250th anniversary of the birth of Burns is a major pillar. But the work will not be finished in time for the actual anniversary in January 2009. And a new "world-clas" museum building at Alloway will not be completed until 2010.

I'll Drink to That!
A boom in exports of British food and drink is being led by Scotch whisky with the value of exports now over £2.8 billion. Distribution hubs such as Singapore (whisky exports up by 84% last year, supplying emerging south-east Asia markets) and Germany (up 62% supplying central and eastern Europe) led the way. Poland has emerged as another major market, partly due to rising wages and living standards and partly due to Poles who have worked here returning to their homeland with a taste for British food and drink products.

Sea Eagles
13 white-tailed sea eagles arrived at Edinburgh Airport this week from Norway - and were met by the Scottish Government's Environment Minister, Mike Russell. This was the second batch of birds being brought in as part of a five-year East Scotland Sea Eagles (Esse) introduction project. Esse is a partnership between the bird protection organisation RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland to reintroduce sea eagles to eastern Scotland. The species was wiped out in Scotland in Victorian times, due to persecution by humans. Europe's largest bird of prey with an 8 feet wingspan, has been successfully reintroduced into the west coast of Scotland since the 1970s. The first batch of fifteen birds were released in the east of Scotland in 2007, of which 11 have survived so far.

Dry Weather Affects Whisky Production
The dry weather in May might not have continued to quite the same extent in June but the lack of rain and the driest spring for 20 years has had an impact on some of the remoter areas of the country. Residents on the 17,500 Knoydart estate in the north-west are having power supplies rationed due to low water levels in a loch that supplies hydro-electric power. The electricity is being cut off from 11pm to 7am each day. That is affecting fridges and freezers and many other household equipment from electric alarm clocks to computers. Meanwhile, on the whisky-producing island of Islay, whisky production had to close down for a spell due to a lack of water from local rivers and streams. During the disruption to that essential ingredient, distilleries used the time to schedule maintenance work rather than produce whisky.

Stone of Destiny a Forgery?
First Minister Alex Salmond has voiced his support for the theory that the stone which was surrendered to King Edward I in 1296 was not the real Stone of Destiny (used at the coronations of Scottish monarchs since the 9th century). Instead Edward took off to Westminster Abbey a fake and Scotland's iconic symbol was kept in Scotland - location unknown. The First Minister has reignited the debate by supporting the view that the Abbot of Scone (where the stone was located at that time) had passed off a forgery. The stone was placed under the throne in London - and English and then United Kingdom monarchs have been crowned since then while sitting above it. The First Minister rejected the idea of seeing if science could resolve the issue, saying it would be better to leave the mystery unsolved. One thing is sure, the Stone of Destiny currently displayed at Scone (seen here) is a replica!

Battle Flags Found at Abbottsford
Trustees who have taken over responsibility for Sir Walter Scott's home at Abbotsford in the Scottish Borders, have uncovered flags from the battlefield of Waterloo which the novelist brought from the scene in 1815 after hearing of Napoleon's defeat and rushing to the scene. The rare banners are very fragile and had been rolled up in paper. It is hoped, however, to put them on display. There are three French and one British banner, some with bullet holes in them. Scott, who wrote many historical novels. was an inveterate collector of military memorabilia. Abbotsford has Rob Roy's gun and Montrose's sword among many others on display. (Carolan's note: Been there! Seen those!)

Scottish Historical Events
July 1 1505 - Seal granted by Edinburgh Town Council to the Incorporation of Barbers and Surgeons to practise their craft. The organisation is now known as the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
July 1 1782 - Proscription Act Repealed, thus allowing again the wearing of tartan and the carrying of weapons (banned as a result of the 1745 Uprising in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie).
July 2 1266 - Treaty of Perth, Norway renounces claim on the Hebrides.
July 2 1908 - Dumfries reached a temperature of 32.8C (91F), the highest recorded - so far.
July 3 1928 - John Logie Baird transmitted first colour television.
July 4 1892 - Lanarkshire-born James Keir Hardie became the first socialist to win a seat in the UK Parliament.
July 5 1847 - Final run of the Edinburgh to London mail coach (trains had taken over).
July 6 1747 - John Paul Jones, hero of the US Navy, born Kirkbean, Dumfries.
July 7 1559 - John Knox became the first Protestant minister appointed in Edinburgh.
July 8 1249 - King Alexander II died on Isle of Kerrara, Oban Bay.
July 9 1867 - Queen's Park Football Club, first senior football (soccer) club in Scotland formed.
July 10 1451 - King James III born at Stirling.
July 11 1274 - Robert the Bruce born (possibly at Turnberry Castle).
July 12 1698 - Darien expedition left Leith for Panama.

Top Scottish Movies of All Time
A survey of cinema-goers asked to name their favourite Scottish film of all time put Mel Gibson's 1995 production "Braveheart" into top spot (of course). The black comedy "Trainspotting" was in second place. Perhaps surprisingly, as the respondents would include many of the younger cinema-goers, it was the 1940 black and white comedy "Whisky Galore" (known as "Tight Little Island" in the US) which came in third. Other films in the top ten were the sentimental story of Greyfriars Bobby and "Mrs Brown" which covered the relationship between Queen Victoria and her Highland servant John Brown. "Gregory's Girl" about an awkward schoolboy and his relationship with a football-playing girl was 7th.

Great Places to Eat
The Giffnock Ivy has opened in an area (just over the boundary with Glasgow) where there is a lot of competition from other good restaurants. But its attention to detail, eye-catching, fresh food which delights the taste buds should ensure that it is a great success. Best of all, although the food and its presentation are of such a high standard, its prices give excellent value for money.

Encyclopedia of New Zealand - The Scots
This is an extensive history of Scots in New Zealand beginning with the sailors and missionaries before 1840, through the organised settlements of 1840-1852, the settlement at Otago, a surge of Scots 1853-1870, the ebbs and flows of 1900-1945 and immigration after 1945. There are sections on the influence of Scottish culture, education and Scots in public life and the New Zealand economy, plus lots of facts and figures. The site has lots of images, audio and video, a biographies gallery and sources of further information. See Encyclopedia of New Zealand - The Scots.

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

Scotland Outdoors!
July Activities for the outdoor enthusiast! Games, hikes, runs, walks, wild times!

Island Blogging
This week's featured blog: Ruthodanort

Police Stripogram Repeat Offender Arrested
A stripogram in a police uniform, who was cleared by a sheriff of having an offensive weapon in a public place, was arrested again on Saturday. Stuart Kennedy, 24, who is known as Sergeant Eros, was detained in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. It is thought the student was charged with obstructing a police officer. Previous charges were dropped when appeal judges backed a sheriff's ruling that stripogram work amounted to a reasonable excuse to carry a truncheon. Mr Kennedy, from Aberdeen, was originally questioned and later charged by Grampian Police after performing at a bar in the city last year. Read more

Charlotte Church and Husband Christen Baby Girl
Charlotte Church and Gavin Henson's daughter Ruby has been christened in a service in Cardiff. The service was held at St Mary of the Angels Church in the Canton area of the city on Saturday afternoon. Church gave birth to Ruby nine months ago at the couple's home in the Vale of Glamorgan. The couple recently announced they were expecting their second child together which is due to be born in January. Church said she wants six children. Ruby Megan Henson was brought into the church in a carry-cot covered with a white blanket. Read more

Irish Web Site of the Week: Wildwatch, the website of the Irish Wildlife Trust

25 June 2008

Solstice Spookies!

On solstice night, instead of lighting an outdoor fire, we played with fireworks. :) I didn't download them from my camera until tonight, and look what I found!

Granted, the third photo could be fireworks smoke, but I snapped about a hundred pictures in rapid succession. These three were taken within a 30-second timespan.

Many of the photos showed orbs, but the one I have circled here looked like it was approaching my camera. The wind was blowing from behind me, so in my mind the cloud in the third photo probably isn't smoke. Also, out of the 100-plus photos I snapped, this was the only one with this phenomenon. Cool, eh?

Get well soon, Gia Dawn!

One of my partners in Love & Lore mischief, and BtV blog member is having surgery today, a day after her newest book releases!

Congratulations on another addition to a fabulous series, Gia - and get well soon!

24 June 2008

RIP, George

If you're easily offended, skip this. It's classic Carlin. :)

21 June 2008

Run, Rosie, Run!

She has been followed by wolves, received twenty-nine proposals of marriage — and on six occasions has nearly died. But a grandmother said yesterday that she was “full of beans” after arriving back on British soil on her record-breaking 20,000-mile run around the world.

~BBC Scotland

13 June 2008

Sequel, Sweet Sequel

As you regular readers may have noticed, I've been a bit MIA for the past few weeks. I've been writing.

Yes, you may all pick your jaws up off the floor now. I'll wait. :)

Beaudry's Ghost finally, finally has its sequel. I just turned it in to my editor today. Yeah, that would be Friday the 13th. That's as good a deadline as any, isn't it?

This book has been too long in coming. I knew I wanted - needed - to write Troy's story, the brother of the heroine in Beaudry's Ghost. Readers were demanding it. But I was at a bit of a loss. A ghost romance is a tricky thing in which the author dances a razor thin edge. When you're dealing with a relationship between a living person and a spirit, readers are only willing to suspend disbelief so far.

I'd turned myself inside out making Beaudry exciting, compelling, romantic - and believable. I was out of ideas for Troy, who was the secondary ghost character in that book. How to write another one that I felt carried on the Beaudry legacy, one that readers will happily go along with me on that ride and think "Yeah, that could happen."

Well, my newest baby has taken its first steps out of the nest - to my editor's desk. Now it's nail-biting time. I'm too close to it; I have no perspective. This past week I've swung wildly from absolutely loving this story, to staring at it in despair, sure that a drunken monkey could have written it better. Every author hits that wall during the birthing process.

Now without further ado, I'd like to share a short, unedited excerpt from the sequel to Beaudry's Ghost, "working title Dark Side of Light" "A Ghost of a Chance". Enjoy!

Copyright 2008 Carolan Ivey, All Rights Reserved.

He’d never stayed in a materialized state for this long. The strain tore at him, threatened to separate the layers of his energy field and send them flying off into space like water rings from a dropped stone.

It had taken every atom of his strength to make the 3,000-mile spatial jump, on top of staying solid long enough to rescue the woman from the flooded cave. He’d intended to bring her all the way to the top of the cliff, leave her there to be found, and be on his way about finding John.

But the effort had cost him.

Troy glanced down at the face of the woman in his arms, grit his teeth and held on. If he lost control of his energy and faltered, she would die.

His superb sense of balance, an asset in life and still now in the afterlife, didn’t fail him now as he crouched on the narrow rock ledge, braced so the woman’s body wouldn’t slide off into the roiling sea that pounded at them, seemingly from all sides. Rain slapped them from above, and the wind and waves clawed at them from everywhere else.

Risking precious balance, he used one hand to gently unwind her long, matted black hair from around his arm and away from her face. Her lips were blue and slack, her eyes partially open and dull. He lowered his face to hers, checking for breath. Nothing. He let her head roll to one side and slid his fingers to the pulse point on her neck. If any life throbbed there, he couldn’t feel it for the vibrations of wind and storm.

“Oh, no you don’t. Don’t do this to me, lady...” He tilted her head back, filled his chest with air and covered her mouth with his.

He blew once, then swayed, dizzy, feeling his grip on his materialized state slipping dangerously with the extra effort it took to breathe for her. He clenched his jaw, tilted his head back and growled deep in his chest, willing his form to stay together, just a little longer. Just until help arrived. He’d seen two people poke their heads over the cliff edge above them, so he knew it wouldn’t be long.

“Not yet,” he muttered, using the vibration of his voice to send binding messages throughout his energy field, reminding it that no matter what the laws of physics said, he was in charge, here. Never mind the fact that before now he’d only managed to stay solid for a few minutes at a time, and only in dire emergencies. The last time he’d done it was for the lives of his sister and Beaudry, and for his effort he’d earned a bullet in his shoulder to keep company with the gaping hole he carried around in his chest.

He lowered his mouth and breathed for her again, turning his head to feel her automatic exhale, this time accompanied by a gush of water.

Yes! Another breath into her lungs. Were her lips slightly warmer? He left his own there for a second or two longer than necessary, testing. A faint green color flickered in front of his eyes, like the brief flash of a hummingbird, there and gone. He tore his mouth away from hers and looked up to see what kind of strange lightning this could be, then he ducked and pressed her body tightly to his as a heavy wave broke over them. The water lifted them both off the ledge, and only by sheer will did he manage to bring them back onto the ledge safely. How much higher was the tide going to rise?

He shook water from his face, pressed the woman’s body firmly between himself and the cliff wall, and bent his head to hers once again. She had to start breathing on her own soon. He couldn’t keep this up.

A movement off to his right snagged his attention. A glowing figure, winged and silent, stood on a nearby ledge, observing, not moving. Her guardian angel, clearly. He spared the being a two-second glare, then lost patience.

“Hey! Aren’t you going to do anything, here?”

The guardian’s expression grew thoughtful, then regretful. But it didn’t move, either to help or to hinder.

“Thanks a bunch,” Troy growled, and ignored the creature, turning back to the task at hand.


Without thinking what he was doing, he willed life into her. Closed his eyes and focused his energy inside her body, targeting her lungs, her barely fluttering heart.

This time, he felt her jaw move under his mouth, and her body flex in his arms. The weird pale green lightning flickered around them again. Her first strong heartbeat resounded like a bell throughout his being, her first voluntary breath sucking in what he’d given her.

Then, before he could lift his mouth from hers, she breathed into him.

Troy nearly lost his balance, and flung out one arm to find a fingertip hold on the rock. Her breath filled his mouth, his chest, and even with his eyes closed he saw the faint green flickers of light strengthen, steady, intensify into a solid glow greener than any brilliant shade Ireland had to offer on its best day. Heat rushed through him, and it took him a moment to register the fact that he felt it at all.

As a ghost, normal physical sensations were foreign to him. Now every drop of rain hitting his skin felt like a needle. And his wounds, normally painless, were now screaming him.

He tore his mouth away and stared down at her. Her eyelids trembled, opened, light grey irises expanding as her pupils focused on his face. The fiery light burned in their depths. Even with their mouths now separated, her strengthening heartbeat echoed through his being, rushing around him as if he were a child enveloped in her womb.

What the hell is happening to me?

If he were anywhere else but perched on a narrow ledge, an inch from losing her to the maw of the sea, he would have done a quick about face and put as much space and time between them as possible. But stay he did, her life force growing stronger and flowing like a river under his hands, into him, through him, and back to her. She seemed to be studying him, her mouth moving slightly as if trying to form words. But if she made any sound, it was swallowed by sea and storm. Then her eyes slid closed and her head rolled to nestle against his chest, fitting perfectly under his chin.

Troy swallowed, trying not to breathe in any more of the living energy that still enveloped them both. Something about it was as seductive as it was disturbing, and all his instincts screamed to get outside it and look at it from an objective distance before deciding what to do about it, if anything at all.

He took her cold hands, intending to tuck them inside her coat, when he caught sight of the diamond sparkling on her left ring finger.

She belongs to someone. Absurdly, the thought felt like a sucker punch to his solar plexus.

He looked up, and finally, finally, he saw two people rappelling down the cliff, red-and-black jumpsuits making ripping sounds in the wind, a metal litter dangling between them.

“Take her first,” he yelled above the crashing tide as the rescuers reached them.

Their reply was lost in the noise, but they quickly assessed the situation and expertly relieved him of his burden.

The instant body separated from his, he felt himself dissolving, the last of his strength leaving as the green light faded. One of the rescuers cried out in alarm, but could do nothing as Troy’s grip on the rock slipped, and the icy grey sea closed over his head.

Copyright 2008 Carolan Ivey, All Rights Reserved


02 June 2008

Celtophile Monday

This week's Celtophile Monday will be a bit truncated, as I'm on final approach for delivering the sequel to Beaudry's Ghost to my editor. In the meantime here's a fun father's day idea - a beach towel kilt!