A long weekend spent in Kilmartin Glen, wandering among stone mounds many thousands of years old. Hours spent staring at rock carvings of unknown meaning, if any at all. Time spent in a landscape once the centre of the old kingdom of Dalriada.
It is a magnificent place. There’s a well-publicised walk that’ll take you through the ‘linear cemetery’ of Kilmartin Glen in a few hours. It takes in sites spanning thousands of years of prehistory- burial tombs, standing stones, decorated stone. From one site you can see another, sheep and cattle grazing, and Kilmartin village at the head of the glen. Our Victorian predecessors planted trees around many of the sites, today leaving carpet of bluebells under the rustling leaves.
The landscape today is vastly different to how it would have looked to those planning, building and using these sites in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. It’s well managed today, with grazing and Forestry plantations dominant. What struck me visiting these places is that then, in prehistory, it was a landscape put to a particular, determined purpose, and the same is still true today. Whether farmers, the Forestry, or tourists like us, out walking taking in the sights. Particular, determined purposes.
Kilmartin Museum has produced an excellent guide to walks in the area, which includes a thorough run through of the walk mentioned above.
I’m not sure what other peoples’ habits are like but I find myself wholly in a bookish mood at the moment. My spare time seems to have been occupied solely by reading, thinking about books, talking about books, watching others talk about their books and not a lot else. Usually there is some knitting or music or cooking or general other things thrown in there too but not so much recently.
To that end, two things have happened that brought me a fair amount of happiness:
Firstly: seeing Sarah Moss speak at an RSGS event in Edinburgh. Her book, Names for the Sea, is one of my favourites from recent years. Part memoir and part travel book in it she discusses her experience of living in Iceland for a year. It focuses a lot on the social aspects of her time there,something which I really enjoyed. I’ve never been to Iceland (one day…) and while the heritage and landscape is undoubtedly a huge draw for me, I found it every bit as interesting to hear about daily life and social attitudes. Her talk touched on gender, domesticity, working life and being ‘foreign’ in a new landscape. It was excellent.
Secondly, on a recent trip to London I visited Daunt books for the first time. My friend Rebecca had recommended Daunt years ago on a previous visit but for some reason we never went. It was our last stop before the train home this time and what a way to end a holiday – a beautiful space with just the best, most interesting selection of books I can remember seeing in years. I now maintain that all bookshops should come in Edwardian buildings with spiral stairs, stained glass windows and an abundance of fresh flowers. I couldn’t resist buying something and came away with Miranda July’s book of short stories.
As the pile of job applications keeps growing and as my annual Winter cold takes an ever stronger grip on my sinuses, I thought I’d take a minute or two to round up some things I’ve been enjoying recently. There surely is no soul on this earth who enjoys filling in job applications with or without a cold.
It’s just a few days ’til the launch of Celtic Connections in Glasgow. It’s always a feast of interesting, challenging and inspiring music and with some of the best horo-gheallaidh you could ask for in the Festival Club. I can’t wait!
I recently read The Silent Weaver by Roger Hutchinson and was reminded of the beautiful and enigmatic works of Angus MacPhee. Some of these are on display in Kildonan Museum in South Uist; I’ve spent a lot of time entirely transfixed by them. The Silent Weaver does justice to the man and his work as well as setting it within the wider context of mental health care in the 20th century.
A winter walk to see in the New Year. We took a trip north, enjoying the snow, trees and frosty landscapes of the uplands around Blair Atholl. I love Perthshire at this time of year. Photos in this post from that walk.
Yesterday heralded the old new year (interesting article by Angus Peter Campbell in the link) so with that I wish you all bliadhna mhath ùr.
A number of years ago I worked in a well-known Edinburgh bookshop. I worked a few evenings a week, alongside studying full-time. I really loved the job – being surrounded by books, getting a hefty discount on books, speaking excitedly about books with colleagues and customers. It was, on the whole, pretty good. I made a lot of friends when I was there, but one friendship in particular grew through a shared love of cold places, knitting, youtube videos of animals doing stupid things and, of course, books.
Rebecca and I remain close friends today, despite now living on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Last year Rebecca touted the idea of doing a project between the two of us, and I, being a fan of everything Rebeccca does, of course said yes. The result is Looking East, Looking West – a weekly diptych of photos from the two of us. It’s nice to be able to share photos in this kind of context, and it’s good to have a project to focus on week-to-week. It’s not easy remembering to take photos, and particularly ones good enough to put up (did I mention Rebecca is really, really good?) but it’s good fun. So the photos I put up here might well be leftovers from those I send to Rebecca, but hopefully over the course of the year they’ll improve and develop (excuse the pun).
Thank you, Rebecca, for encouraging me to do something different, something that feels quite bold.
Last Islay sunrise.
Last Islay sunset.
Back in Edinburgh, my sometime home, for a short while. I’ve left Islay behind with little sadness and my eyes are looking ever further westward. Meantime, however, I’m enjoying being back somewhere which feels like home; that is so familiar and full of both happy memories and close friends. I’m also enjoying revisiting old haunts (hello, Peter’s Yard) and having some free time to wander museums do the kind of frivolous things you can only do in a city, like shopping here.