Saturday 26 March 2016

Ankle socks and cold legs...

Hello and a happy Saturday to you!

It's my turn again at the Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog this Saturday but I'm REBLOGGING most of it here since it's about my Easter memories. 

Spring into summer… via Easter

My earliest memories of Easter are not so much of hand painted hard-boiled eggs, of chocolate eggs, or of hot cross buns. What I recall most during my growing years of the 1950s was that regardless of whether the Easter weekend fell in March or in April, it was a symbolic time to shed the winter clothes and showcase those for the summer.

Brrr….Freezing cold legs and short ankle socks! That’s what I remember most.

The aunt I was named after, my aunt Nan (usually called my Nana) generally made my sister and I an Easter outfit every year. She was a kilt/ tartan clothes maker to trade and worked in the Glen Har factory in Hillington, Glasgow, Scotland. Glen Har was a prestigious clothing outlet which sent tartan and tweed products to worldwide destinations. Highly skilled seamstresses worked there, so Nana’s wages weren’t brilliant but they were a little above average for the sewing trade.

Nana was my mother’s unmarried sister. She looked after my grandfather who was 78 the year I was born. Regardless of having her full time 5 days a week sewing job and caring for a cantankerous old man who lived till I was eight in 1960, she also loved my sister and me to bits, spoiling us rotten whenever she could afford it. This was just as well because my mum and dad couldn’t buy many new clothes for us; everything we wore was well cared for and intended to last a long time.

Unfortunately, I’ve no photographs of any of our full Easter outfits but this photo to the left is of Nana, my sister and me. I’m about 5 years old in this one: our skirts no doubt quite stylish for that year. (1957?)

However, every Easter, Nana went the whole hog. Our brand new outfit got its first airing on Easter Sunday at her local Church of Scotland where my sister and I were enrolled in the Sunday School. Rain, hail or shine …and maybe even snow… we wore our new outfits on Easter Sunday regardless, Nana included as she kitted herself out as well! 

She would have been ‘black-affontit’ if we weren’t presentable from inside out so, on Good Friday, our cosy and well worn libertybodices went into storage for the next winter. Nana replaced our scratchy woollen winter vests with strappy white knitted-cotton ones which sometimes had a lovely, but itchy, lace edging. Below that we had brand new knickers. Don’t ask what they were like - lets just say they were cotton utility with wide elastic!

Even though my sister is four years my senior, we tended to get the same design in a pretty cotton dress, or a matching blouse and skirt set. On top of that we would be given a new cardigan, often ones Nana hand knitted. A new cotton jacket or coat completed the outfit, generally shop bought, though I do recall the ‘Duster coats’ she made for us on at least one occasion.

The following photo isn’t an Easter one but my sister and I are wearing blouses and kilts made by Nana. 

The kilts are Dress Stewart (I think) although we technically only can claim to be affiliated to the Mackenzie, or the Fraser clans. I’m guessing that Nana couldn’t acquire Mackenzie or Fraser tartan at the time of the photo. However, I do remember wearing were a  Dress Mackenzie and an Anderson tartan kilt when I as older. Woollen socks were the order of the day for the kilt outfit and though not in the photo she knitted us Aran style zipped jackets with matching Dress Stewart panels to the front of them. I think I’m a bit less than 4 years old in the photo and the kilt outfits were probably part of our Christmas present from her.

But back to those freezing legs memories. At Easter, we got brand new white cotton ankle socks, sometimes with a little frilly pastel lace edging, and new shoes. Into the storage cupboard went the knee length woollen or cotton socks that had done their turn for us over the winter months. (We had no thick tights or leggings in those days) 

Wikimedia Commons
My hard wearing Clark’s Torflex winter shoes were replaced by summer sandals, or finer summer shoes. I remember at least one pair of my summer shoes being made of fine white kid leather which had to be carefully buffed up with a special white polish. Scratches on those shoes were a nightmare to remove.

Wikimedia Commons

Of course these clothes and shoes didn’t magically appear at the Easter weekend, a lot of preparation went into the affair. For reasons I now understand better since I became a grandmother myself, my sister and I were taken to Nana’s to ‘stay over’ most weekends while my grandfather was alive. This meant both he and Nana could see us regularly. Deposited every Friday night at Nana’s meant we could go out on Saturday to buy anything that was shop-bought for our new Easter outfits. Nana claimed to love shopping with us and always made it fun.

Reading the descriptions of our outfits above, you might be thinking that Nana liked cotton an awful lot and you’d be correct! As well as ensuring we looked beautiful, and were a credit to her, she was also extremely practical. She knew that after Easter it would be my mother who had to wash the clothes and that was quite a palaver in the 1950s.

From my birth in 1952 till 1959, I lived in what was a ‘less than desirable’ Maryhill tenement block in Glasgow, Scotland. The Victorian built red sandstone exterior was completely blackened by smoke and soot but it was still in fairly sound condition. However, the building had not been internally renovated over the decades. Most of the housing in Maryhill, a poor inner city area, was owned by a relatively small number of landlords. They liked extracting the money from their tenants but hadn’t been too sharp at improving the living conditions of those tenants who paid them money every week to live in their buildings.

My tenement's facade, with some prominent window features, looked a bit like this one when viewed from Maryhill Road, though the photo below is of the High Street in Glasgow. Like the photo seen here, we had a shop called D. M. Hoey (a drapers shop) directly below our front window.

Wikimedia Commons

The flats/apartments tended to be small and generally consisted of a room and kitchen that is one bedroom and one kitchen separated by a small entrance hall, usually called the lobby. We were fortunate in that we had an inside toilet with a flush cistern - those fancy high up on the wall cisterns with a huge long chain pull. The more unfortunate of our neighbours didn’t have inside toilets, they had to share the ‘stairheid lavvy’ i.e. a communal W.C.  Most of those neighbours lived in the ‘single ends’. The reasoning escapes me but generally the single ends  i.e. one room only flats were usually the middle door of the three doors to each landing on the close - the name for the communal access stairway. The communal stair head lavatory was often shared by 4 or 5 families which sometimes meant an average of upwards of 2 dozen people. 

The stairheid lavvy was never pleasant to walk past.

There was no hot running water inside our house. Water was either heated by a small gas geyser system or by heating a large kettle or pan on the range. The range in my first house was a black leaded fire-come-oven-come-stove-top, an all in one place cooking and heating system.

Wikimedia Commons- typical black leaded range

Since there was only cold running water to the tap and sink in the kitchens, the women of Maryhill tended to wash their family clothes in a purpose built wash house situated in the central back court. The wash house, a small brick building, held a boiler to heat water, a couple of large sinks for rinsing clothes and an impressive mangle/ wringer to extract the excess water. The boiler was coal fired and the hot water fed into what seemed to a small child to be a huge cauldron.

My mother and her neighbours would take turns for the use of this facility, the key generally coming to my mum on a particular day and nominated time. If you were unable to take your ‘turn’ to use the facility then the family clothes remained unwashed till the next turn.

The boiler fire was lit by the first user of the day, after which there was a short wait till the water in the large copper boiler got to boiling point.  My mum would boil the clothes in the huge boiler, popping in the bedding, towels and cotton underclothes first. Clouds of steam filled the small room as the process got underway. Wash soap was added and a huge wooden paddle was used to stir the boiling clothes. 

After the boiling process the clothes were removed with the paddle and slurped into the adjacent huge Belfast style earthenware sinks. That was not only a tricky process but a hazardous one. Nasty burns on wash day were not uncommon. Any residual dirt on the ‘whites’ was thumped out by hand using block soap against a metallic or glass rippled wash board. 
Mangle- Wikimedia Commons
When the clothes were rinsed free of soap they would be pressed through a mangle which was mounted at the side of a sink. The large wringer removed the excess water. pressing full sized cotton or linen sheets through this was a definite skill and required quite a lot of strength and energy! Almost the same laborious process was used to clean the non- white clothes which couldn’t be boiled but could withstand a fair degree of hot water.

The clean clothes were then pegged out on the wash lines which crisscrossed the back court and air dried if it wasn’t raining. If, unfortunately, it was raining the clothes were taken into the house and hung on a pulley system in the kitchen.

Back to my lovely white ankle socks. Nylon ones were available by the late 1950s but they tended to go all stretchy after a few hot washes and they lost their pristine whiteness fairly quickly. On the other hand, cotton could withstand a lot of boiling, battering and could be bleached to a new whiteness over the months of use.

We did have some sunny warm days back in the 1950s though for some amazing reason I remember the cold leg feeling a lot more! As I write this my laundry of today is birlin’ aroon nicely on my drying line in the garden. It’s around 8 deg C/ 46.5 F and I really don’t fancy getting out the ankle socks this weekend.


Sunday 20 March 2016

11 books sold and another book read!

Sunday selection!

This past week has been a bit odd in terms of the time I've had for reading non-fiction and fiction. Much of what was available time when not grandchild minding last week was taken up in domestic duties, and time reserved for preparation for my visit to a local ladies' discussion group.

The ladies of the Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, discussion group invited me to do a presentation on my books. I enjoyed making the PowerPoint presentation for them but enjoyed presenting it even more. They were a lovely audience. I was told afterwards they were too fascinated to chip in and ask lots of questions. I answered some at the end but I belatedly realised that I should have left them more time for this because they are usually quite vocal. 

Selling 11 of my novels to them was a huge boost- so I thank the ladies very much and hope they all enjoy the reads. 

I did mention a time or two during the presentation about the benefits to an author of doing a short review on Amazon or Goodreads etc but I know that it's a rare thing to receive feedback when people buy my paperback novels directly from me. They are wary of putting a review on amazon for a book they've bought elsewhere. 

That doesn't deter ME from writing a few lines on books recently read, so here's what I thought of the novel I managed to complete last week. 

Over the decades, I've read a lot of books set in Tudor times many of which I've thoroughly enjoyed although they're not currently my most favourite time period to read about. There has been a huge glut of Tudor cinematic/TV productions and books on the market during the last five to ten years and I though I had had my fill. 

Last year, I read Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel simultaneously as I watched the BBC screened version of it and that was both a revelation and a challenge. The revelation was because I've generally read a book in advance of seeing a production on TV and the experience of reading to watch each week was novel indeed. The challenge was to have read enough of each book, each week, to keep pace with the events which were chosen from the book as inclusions in the production. 

The Kiss if The Concubine covers the same historical events but with different slants according to the author choice of concentrating on Anne Boleyn as the main character. I have to say that The Kiss of the Concubine was a much easier read than Wolf Hall and I completed it in a much shorter time scale. 

If you like historical fiction that is almost more of a historical romance then you'll probably enjoy this read. 

Here's what I put on Amazon and Goodreads....

This was a fascinating version of the journey of Anne Boleyn from innocent teenager to older woman and eventually to queen of England- after Henry VIII succeeded in removing his first wife via the divorce that rocked the nation. Hearing it all from Anne Boleyn’s voice was interesting, though at times almost irritating when she was first pursued by Henry. However, the use of first person brings to life the motivations put forward by the author giving justification for Anne’s reasoning during the long 7 year wooing by King Henry VIII. The passage of time isn’t laboured in the story yet, when the inevitable end comes it seems almost too early. 

Happy reading to you and please consider writing a short review of any books you read. My sales ranking on Amazon could definitely do with a boost and every single review helps !


Friday 18 March 2016

Friday frolics at Rumer's launch party!

Happy Friday to you!

There's going to be something a little different happening today and that is that I'm filling a short slot at Rumer Haven's Facebook Launch party for her novel What The Clocks Know.

I've done a number of Facebook parties myself, and have taken slots at multi author parties, but this is the first where I'm trying to make connections with someone else's unread novel. I will read it but since I'm only buying it today, I know about as much as you do, if you've not yet bought it. 
Click HERE  to access the party.

My time is coming up at 1 p. m. (London time )

Twenty-six-year-old Margot sets out on a journey of self-discovery – she dumps her New York boyfriend, quits her Chicago job, and crashes at her friend’s flat in London. 

Rather than find herself, though, she only feels more lost. An unsettling energy affects her from the moment she enters the old Victorian residence, and she spirals into depression. Frightened and questioning her perceptions, she gradually suspects her dark emotions belong to Charlotte instead. 

Who is Charlotte? The name on a local gravestone could relate to Margot’s dreams and the grey woman weeping at the window. 
Finding a ghost isn't what she had in mind when she went ‘soul searching’, but somehow Margot's future may depend on Charlotte's past. 
Woven between 21st century and Victorian London, What the Clocks Know is a haunting story of love and identity. 

Here's a resume of what I intend to do to fill my slot. I'll be posting little bits on the Facebook page at spaced intervals using connections between Rumer's book and my contemporary mystery Take Me Now.  It should maybe go something like this below...but Facebook launch parties have a way of digressing.  

...I’m delighted to be able to do a little ‘Take Over’ during Rumer Haven’s launch today of What The Clocks Know. She was quite agreeable to my muscling in, especially if I could make some kind of connections or similarities with her new novel and with one of mine. My Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic Adventures were clearly unsuitable for any kind of connection, so I wondered what I could use from my Contemporary Mysteries.

 One of my very tenuous connections is this location….where would this be?

Ø      London  is one of the many city locations which are mentioned in my Crooked Cat novel Take Me Now.

When is Take Me Now set?
Ø      21st Century/contemporary so there’s a link to those parts of What The Clocks Know which are set in the 21st Century.

And what about the characters? Are there any likely connections that I can make? 

Ø      My main male character is Nairn Malcolm, who like many thousands of businessmen, has a head office in London.
Ø      My main female is Aela Cameron. She’s a feisty lass from VancouverCanada, who has taken on a temporary job of being a general factotum and pilot cum driver to Nairn Malcolm. London isn’t totally unfamiliar to her at the beginning of  Take Me Now but, as a seasoned world traveller, she quite rightly doesn’t count her 5 day experience in London as comprehensive enough for her to be familiar with the huge city.

Rumor’s female character, Margot, has given up being in the north American continent and also finds herself in LondonThis is the city she last had a job in. 

Where is this? 

4. Odd happenings

I’ve not yet read Rumor’s book so I don’t know exactly where the old Victorian building might be in London but here are only very slightly more specific London locations which occur in Take Me Now.
Ø      A Thames side industrial development area where Nairn Malcolm has his head offices and warehouses for his ‘Adrenalinn Adventures’ businesses.
Ø      A dual carriageway close to his head office

There have been some very strange happenings at Nairn Malcolm’s business headquarters in London. At first it seems like there’s been a glitch in the computer systems when customer orders are tampered with. Yet the trail leads to no-one because the whole computer system is interfered with… the ramifications meaning his office staff become affected as they’re unable to do their jobs properly. 

Then there’s a very small fire in the warehouse, dealt with promptly by security so virtually no damage is done, yet no-one can be found to be responsible for this either. CCTV provides no evidence. It’s as though the perpetrator is invisible.

Nairn Malcolm finds he’s the next target. He has a mysterious and almost deadly motorbike accident, though this is not in London - it’s when he’s in Scotland. His injuries are numerous though none are life-threatening. It seems too coincidental for this to be a pure accident coming within days of the other incidents but who is responsible? Who is remaining ‘under the radar? Who can cause the incidents seemingly without leaving a trace?

London again and the incidents continue, but this time the harm is done to Nairn’s newly appointed general factotum and PA who is helping to keep him mobile and helping to keep his normally well oiled business interests ticking over. The police are now investigating and coming up blank.

Unlike ‘What The Clocks Know’ Take Me Now isn’t a paranormal novel. The strange happenings are definitely caused by a real live person. The solution does eventually present itself and the mystery is solved. I call this my ‘Corporate Sabotage Mystery’ novel. It might sound like it’s a serious one but actually it’s not!

Take Me Now fits no particular category because it’s a mystery. It’s a romance. It’s a contemporary novel. It’s also a little bit humorous, though I’d not call it chick lit.

 Fascinating London

A visit to London is likely to have you encounter some of the many varied and often highly skilled street musicians. I’m pretty sure they do a lot of soul searching before embarking out with their gear. Will the location chosen be a good one to draw the crowds? Will their effort be well received? Will it be a good, or a dire, experience for them? 

The Youtube video below is a different track from the one used on Facebook but both are excellent. 

*****WIN an ECOPY*****

To win an ecopy of Take Me Now  you need to tell me what this track below is called. When you know the answer please go back to  the Facebook Party HERE and 'direct message' me with the answer!

Good luck and happy reading.


Wednesday 16 March 2016

Birthday surprise!

It's FREE!
In honour of my birthday being yesterday (15th March), you'll find The Taexali Game is FREE on KINDLE across Amazon (16th March) but you might need to hurry to grab this fun time travel adventure for TEENS (and older) set in Roman Scotland AD 210 during the reign of the Emperor Severus! 
It's definitely fiction but I wrote it with the intention of giving readers (above 10 years old) interested in Roman Scotland an idea of what it may have been like to be confronted by such an invasive force. I've included as much historical fact as I can, where appropriate, for the intended audience. 

Sunday 13 March 2016

Rome's First Frontier...

Happy Late Sunday to you!

It's time for another review of a book read last week. I'm gradually getting through a goodly pile of Roman Scotland non-fiction books, and in many ways I wish that I had coughed up the cash and bought this book a few years ago, when I first started writing novels set in the time of the Agricolan Campaigns in northern Britannia.

For the last couple of years, I've been fascinated by the concept of the Roman occupation of what's termed 'the Gask Ridge' and the 'Highland Fort Line'. This book whets my appetite further and I'm now desperately awaiting the analysis of some LIDAR surveys of Scotland because I'm fairly sure they will enhance knowledge of  the already known forts, and provide more details to the speculative Roman defences in Scotland.

Yet again, I find that archaeological interpretation is very dependent on how evidence is viewed by those doing the digging.

Here's what I thought of Rome's First Frontier The Flavian Occupation of Northern Scotland. by D.J. Woolliscroft and B. Hoffmann.

This was a great book for evidence on The Gask Ridge and Highland Line of Roman forts and watch towers in Scotland. Even though this reprint of 2010 many be slightly out of date, there is an immense amount of excavation covered in it.  I will be using the last couple of chapters often for general reference, and the others if I need specific details on a part of the Gask Ridge or Highland line forts. I like that the authors have identified some installations as particularly being legionary manned, meaning that most were auxiliary run. There are well drawn illustrations and good aerial photographs in the book but I personally would have benefited from a more comprehensive map of north of the Central Belt placing all of the named installations with regard to modern towns etc. I resorted to OS maps and making my own simple sketch. Some of the speculative parts of the book are intriguing, and the suppositions regarding the dating I find are plausible though on scant evidence I can also see how many other experts might refute the evaluations in this book. I personally can identify with many of the conclusions as being reasonable possibilities. This will be a great ‘go to’ book for me for many reasons in the future!

Even though this book was more challenging to read than the last one I read on Roman Scotland, because of the lengthy details given for each site, I felt I gained a lot of new pieces of information from this one.

Happy reading to you! Now, what's next on my reading pile....?


Saturday 12 March 2016

Whatever will they find next?

Happy Saturday to you!

It's my turn to post at the Wranglers Blog today but since it's a subject directly related to my writing, I'm REBLOGGING the bulk of it here. 

It’s all in the interpretation.

History is dull as ditch water. Really?  Have you ever heard anyone say that before? I have many times but as I got older I found it very easy to disbelieve it. I would even go so far as to say that I probably veered a lot of my reading energy during my teenage years (1960s) towards subject matter that was nerdy and very unfashionable purely because it was history, or historical biographies, or historical fiction and because I was quite happy to buck the trends. Where I grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, during the 1950s and 1960s, archaeology was thought to be a very dull subject indeed and quite a closemouthed occupation. By that, I mean that when the old codgers, er...I mean the experts...conducted an archaeological ‘dig’ it seemed to be shrouded in absolute secrecy for a very long time till the results were finally published and available for public reading, by which time the dig details had died a dull death and had faded into the forgotten news archives.

I’m absolutely thrilled that for the last couple of decades archaeology has become a hot topic. I’m delighted to thank the use of innovative scientific technology, television, the internet and the general media for that volte face.

However, I do have to confess that back in the late 1960s, although I loved reading about archaeologists like Howard Carter, who hit the headlines with the 1922 discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, I didn’t actually fancy doing the boringly repetitive and back breaking digging that’s a necessary part of being an archaeologist. Whether the date is 1922 or 2022, that monotonous minute clearing away of soil is still a necessary part of any exploration of sites of interest but today even that process can be speeded up by the initial use of a small mechanical excavator. When I first saw evidence of this use I was horrified till I realised that the experts know just how deep in the soil to begin the painstaking clearance, particle by particle, and that what is above that level can be quickly removed.

Since joining Facebook, I’ve liked a lot of ‘history’ pages and I get regular media updates of all sorts of interesting discoveries. Hardly a day goes by now without something amazing being found and I’m delighted to say that many of these have been closer to home in the UK, and even in Scotland. I’ve written posts about interesting places in Aberdeenshire before on this blog—about local castles; and places like the ‘folly’ at Dunnideer but I’ve not written all that many posts about places associated with ‘Dark Ages’ history. On the way home from one particular Craft Fair at Insch, I went home the long way which took me past a site that I knew was being excavated by an archaeological team led by Dr. Gordon Noble. Dr. Noble is associated with many current archaeological projects in Scotland and is associated with Aberdeen University. I’ve gone to a few local talks where he’s updated amateurs, like me, on what’s currently happening on the sites of excavation. This video shows just how ‘open to the public’ archaeologists are now, and it gives some light on the fact that a lot of the sheer grunt work of painstaking excavation is now done by volunteer labour. 

What’s incredibly exciting about archaeological discovery is that for the last couple of decades the addition of innovative scientific techniques like geophysical surveys/ resistivity surveys have provided much more evidence of ancient occupation, like some 22 watch towers and small Roman forts on the Gask Ridge in Scotland- and this is only a tiny stretch along the line of Roman advance around AD 84 from the Central Belt (Glasgow to Edinburgh) to the north-east where I live. Learn about resistivity HERE

Dendrochronology and dendroarchaeology (more about that HERE
now make the likelihood of evidence discovery a much more real prospect. Tried and tested aerial photography, since the end of the Second World War, has been incredible in advancing the knowledge of ancient sites in Scotland and can still be a useful indicator of what is below ground, especially during dry summers. But anyone who knows anything about Scotland will also know that dry summers are pretty fictional!

For me, the most exciting technology of all now being used for archaeological purposes is LIDAR. LIDAR isn’t a new technique. It’s been used since post Second World War for governmental uses but only now is it beginning to be used for archaeological identification of potential sites of interest.

All of these scientific techniques make the history much more easily understood by the average member of the public. Some TV programmes (in the UK and maybe worldwide) admittedly dumb down the knowledge level of a subject to make it more palatable and more sensational but generally if a programme interests more people in the historical subject, then it is successful.

I love the visuals that a lot of the media coverage can create. I really look forward to ‘shared’ items on Facebook about new discoveries and articles written about them. And I especially love when really clever people make 3D images of places I’d love to visit—if I travelled back in time. My Roman characters inhabit Britannia but if they had the opportunity to visit Rome they might be visiting The Mausoleum of Augustus when in its prime. It's definitely recommended to click the link below to see the 3D reconstuction. 

Look out for more shares of 3 D imaging etc in the future.


Tuesday 8 March 2016

Autumn's Flame by Denise Domning

Tuesday talk? Well not really, it's yet another review of one of my recent reads, squeezed in between my heavier research reading. 

From time to time I buy a copy ( or get one when it's on a FREE day as this one was) of a new-to-me author that's flagged up by an author I do know from my blog or from Facebook. This is the first time I've read any of Denise Domning's work and I may try her work again in the future. 

This was an entertaining, quickly read, well edited romance which begins in the England of 1194 when rules governing what a woman could do were very strict. It might have seemed the ideal time for some women when a detested husband died, but not so. If pregnant, the widow had to be the ward of the local sheriff till the babe was born- the Normans having their finances, and potential heirs, at the forefront of importance! This aspect of Norman law was new to me; I must have missed reading about this before though medieval England has never yet been my main study area. The plot doesn’t vary much from other Medieval romances that I’ve read, but the writing was engaging enough to keep the interest going throughout the story.
I warmed sufficiently well to Geoffrey FitzHenry, Lord Coudray, the maimed yet still devastating hero  - though I was a bit confused about who were the legitimate of the four sons of the father/mother in this story and brothers to Geoff. It didn’t matte though because Geoff’s brothers are all lovely with very non-traditional wives.  

However, I found that the ‘firebrand’ Elyssa, heroine of the story, takes a bit of getting used to. Her smothering mother hen nature and ready tendency to weeping for me didn’t quite match with her desire for independence. There were many instances when I thought that something was a bit difficult to swallow, like the transformation of Jocelyn from complete wimpy mother’s pet (though already a devious manipulator) to a strong and wonderfully competent page boy who becomes one of the heroes of the siege of the tower house where Elyssa and her women have taken flight- after taking up arms to defend the walls. 

I gave this 3 and 1/2 stars on Amazon and Goodreads. 


Wednesday 2 March 2016

Mons Graupius by Duncan B Campbell

Wednesday write up! 

I've just finished yet another of my non-fiction books on Roman Scotland. This one - MONS GRAUPIUS AD 83 by Duncan B Campbell - is from the Osprey Published Series on Campaigns/ Battles and I bought it mainly because I like the illustrations done by Sean O Brogain. 

This is my review on amazon and Goodreads: 

This is one of many books I’ve recently been reading on Roman Scotland. Although I learned very little new in it, it was easy to cover quickly. The graphic material is well presented and is fairly varied- using archaeology where appropriate along with evidence from manuscript copies of the writing of Tacitus. Sean O Brogain’s illustrations are a wonderful addition. 

Duncan Campbell, I believe, would be fairly convincing to a new reader of the subject but less so for those who already have some background of the northern campaigns of General Agricola. Where there is some conjecture among experts over the site of Mons Graupius (if indeed a battle did take place), Duncan Campbell is quite categorical about the site being Bennachie. He is also fairly categorical over the dates of the Agricolan campaigns acknowledging that he is following the suppositions laid down by K. St. Joseph which many now believe may not match up with recent archaeological evidence. Some amateurs, like I am, when new to the study, can easily be confused over such details from book to book. I do, however, believe that if a battle, Mons Graupius, did occur then Bennachie is a very strong contender. Until someone can give me more evidence for why the Durno marching camp has such large proportions, then it seems to me that Durno and Bennachie provide a suitable gathering place not only for the northern Celtic/ Briton tribes but also for the Roman armies, including those from fleet support. 

Until more archaeological confirmation is available, the subject of Mons Graupius will remain very conjectural. 

The most important comments for me in the book are those that mention that that all is supposition until proper investigations are done at the possible sites for Mons Graupius. Though the Durno marching camp, the largest so far found in Scotland, was identified in the 1970s I don't believe any field surveys have ever been done (none I can find so far in my researching). I would love to hear the results if that camp area, and perhaps the foothills of Bennachie, are properly surveyed using LIDAR. Could evidence be uncovered then of massed graves of the fallen -Romans to the Durno side and Caledons on the foothills - even though no metal of note is likely to be found as it would have been removed by the survivors?

N.B. Although my 4th impression is dated 2015 the Archaeolink History Park is still highlighted in the book as worth a visit, being near Bennachie. Sadly, it closed many years ago and this info is now misleading.

So what's coming next in my non-fiction reading? Rome's First Frontier The Flavian Occupation of Northern Scotland by D.J. Wooliscroft and B. Hoffmann. What I'm sure of before I even begin the book is that I won't be reading this new one so quickly as the one reviewed above.