Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

Land and Sea

Saturday, 29 January 2011

NaBloPoMo Jan2011

Cover of The Sea Kingdoms

Cover of The Sea Kingdoms

13. The Sea Kingdoms: The History of Celtic Britain and Ireland by Alistair Moffat

This book was published after the author produced and presented a television series of the same name for Scottish Television, and many of its flaws and virtues reflect that beginning. I haven’t seen the series (although I might be interested). Roughly country by country the book goes through a broad Celtic history of the British Isles, including Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall and even England. It does not give any focus to Brittany, despite the early assertion that Celticness should be defined by language rather than race or other criteria.

The Celtic League and Celtic Congress consider...

The Celtic League and Celtic Congress consider Cornwall to be one of six Celtic nations.

While the editing missed a few things (one chapter in particular has an undue number of proofreading and other errors, and far too much emphasis is laid on mna si being an alternate phrase for bean si, or banshee, when any Irish child should have been able to point out that mná (women) is simply the plural in Irish for bean (woman), and thus mná sí would actually be banshees) the broad strokes of the history seemed correct where I knew enough to comment. My real quibble is with the chronology, which skips around a lot, even within given chapters, often making the point in question less clear. Similarly, a point made in one chapter sometimes appears to be contradicted in another.

Still, allowing for this not being a ‘scholarly’ history, I think it’s well worth the read, for bringing Celtic past and present together, as a true cultural heritage and largely ignoring (or at least downplaying) the tourist tat. It also makes a good argument in bringing forward the sea links that were so important in the early parts of this history (which includes some decent discussion of the Viking influence on the Celtic lands, and a return Celtic influence on Scandinavia) when land travel was often more difficult and nearly always slower.

I enjoyed this a lot, and may well follow up on the bibliography, if I can find the books. (I randomly came across this in a second-hand bookshop in Jerusalem.)

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RH books

Thursday, 2 October 2008

I didn’t read as much over Rosh Hashana as I thought I might, but I did the other things I expected to: praying (and hearing the shofar) at the synagogue, enjoying sociable and very tasty meals, and a bit of self-reflection; so that’s okay.

262. Blue Star over Red Square by Carmela Raiz

I think I’d heard of Refuseniks when I was younger, but the whole era of the USSR ended when I was hardly even a teenager, so I appreciated getting a better insight into the phenomenon in general (of Soviet Jews applying for and being repeatedly refused permission to emigrate, especially to Israel, and also being harassed as traitorous for their wish both to leave and to live Jewishly in the meantime) and into one family who went through it in particular. Raiz published this book in 1994 (the Russian language edition came out in 1992), very shortly after the family’s eventual aliya in 1990, which took place almost two decades after Raiz and her husband had first applied. It’s an informative and inspiring book, which seems to be out of print but available second hand.

263. The Jewish Kingdom of Kuzar by Rabbi Zelig Shachnowitz

This is an even older tale, but it’s a new translation, so should be available new for awhile. Rabbi Shachnowitz wrote for Jewish youngsters in Germany, with this book being first published in the 1920s. It is a retelling of what facts are/were known about the Jewish history of Kuzar, and fairly gripping as a novel. Well worth reading.

264. The Jacobite Wars: Scotland and the Military Campaigns of 1715-1745 by John L. Roberts

I’d read enough novels on the topic of the ’45 to want a more specifically historical overview, and this book well fulfilled the purpose. The context of the ’15 (which I hadn’t read so much about previously) was useful, although it takes up far less than half of the book. Interestingly, Roberts never seems to say that things had to go one way or the other. He points out where (with hindsight, of course) certain campaigns and battles could have gone differently for both sides (as so often in such things, more unity and less bickering and taking of offence by generals, officers and princes would have helped!) and gives sometimes day by day recountings of who did what, and knew what, when and where. My main difficulty with the book was sometimes remembering which side a particular name was on, as they might have been introduced chapters before. A couple of charts of the main players on both sides would have been good to refer back to, as would a few maps, although I actually missed those less.

More boys’ adventures

Monday, 4 August 2008

227. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Newly orphaned David Balfour leaves his quiet Lowland village in Scotland to seek his uncle and his fortune, and discovers that honour, politics and family ties don’t always mean what he thought they would. I rather wish I’d done what Stevenson recommends early in the tale, and had a decent map of Scotland beside me, to trace David and Alan’s travels, but I didn’t, and wasn’t reading a text that might have had one in its endpapers.

Instead, I listened to another newly catalogued Librivox edition, read by one person, who does very well at distinguishing the voices, and gives a pretty disclaimer at the very beginning as to being American and thus not having perfection in his various Scots accents.

In any case, I was greatly intrigued by the descriptions of the Highlanders still hiding leaders, arms and papers after the ’45, and the exposure of a Whiggish Lowland boy thrown upon them after being betrayed further South.

I especially like how real David is. He gets exhausted, and snappish, and ungrateful, as well as being able to push himself further than he thought he could. He gets ill from hardship and speaks his mind even when he knows it’s ridiculous to do so, and that he could obtain the same result at less cost by keeping quiet. He can compromise, and allow time to run its course. Alan is a rather larger than life character, but he has his faults and his justifications just the same. I was a little surprised at just where the tale ended, but if abrupt it was clear, so that isn’t a major complaint.

And, of course, in the back of my mind I was thinking of the overlapping time and place with some of the Gabaldon books, as well as histories of the period I have read and am reading.

228. The Swoop! by P. G. Wodehouse

Again a new Librivox tale, and a Wodehouse story I didn’t know about. It made me smirk and giggle a good few times, if not quite guffaw, but that might be to do with the fact that it’s decidedly unPC and generally of its time (1909), rather than for all time. Apparently invasion stories decrying the vulnerability of Britain (here England) and the unreadiness of her armed forces for war were all the rage, and Wodehouse seems to enjoy his satire by giving the Boy Scouts as the last useful defence force. (Although the general indifference and desire to keep normal life going of the great British public has its share in sending the multiple invaders running for home.)

Niccolo Rising chapter 7: do I have to do more to show you why I love Dunnett’s voice and characters than to quote the beginning of the chapter?

Marian de Charetty … placed [Claes] under house arrest, and did the same for her breezy son Felix. She did not think, unfortunately, of restraining her mercenary captain Astorre, whom she considered an adult.

Future Travels

Monday, 21 July 2008

Luna the Moon Bear (teddy)
So I told you I’ve signed up for Travelling Teddy number 2, where one teddy is visiting 15 of us around the world. That teddy is already at his first host, and I’m looking forward to greeting him in a few weeks.

I’ve also now signed up for round 7, which is a group round, where ten of us around Europe are due to each send our teddy representative around the group and around the continent. I’m thinking Luna, here, will be the one to go. I’m about halfway through making her rucksack (how does one travel without a rucksack?); I’ve made the back itself, but still have the button and straps to fit and make.

The actual travelling this round may not begin until September, because of participants being abroad themselves in August. There are still spaces in the round, so go sign up!
Luna the Moon bear (teddy) and her crocheted bag
I hadn’t thought of the fact that an ecru bag won’t photograph well against a black bear, which is why you’re getting two photos. Unfortunately I don’t get the opportunity to take my pics in natural daylight all that often, which would help.

So far Luna’s not due to go to Scotland, so far as I know (although she’d love to) but I should go again someday, and in the meantime I’m reading up.

213. Step-Up Geography: Scotland by Alan Rodgers and Angella Streluk

This covers the physical geography of the country, both internally and in relation to the rest of the British Isles, and then the social and political impact that physical state had and has, as well as the modern impact of history.

214. Step-Up History: Famous Scots by Rhona Dick

The book isn’t bad, but I don’t like it so much as the rest of the series. Many of the featured Scots seem rather arbitrarily chosen, and I either wanted more information or rather less on each. That’s just my opinion, of course.

215. Step-Up History: Robert Bruce by Rhona Dick

I’m a novel reader at heart, and must admit that the thing that struck the greatest chord for me in this book was the context and explanation of the Declaration of Arbroath, as quoted by Jamie Fraser in A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon. I did once upon a time mention Bruce in a project I did for school, but only in the context of a family story, and had to be corrected (before the project was in) as to his first name being Robert. Having this book then might have spared me some blushes! Better late than never, I suppose…