Thu 21 Aug 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Gavin

We’re back in the office after a bit of a wander around Scotland. Lots of stuff (stuff? vocabulary hasn’t improved any) happening with books and so on. (Is there a so on or is it only books? Don’t know.) Listening to an interview with John Kessel (more on that soon) and trying to catch up on all that stuff.

Scotland: nice and cool. Tea all the time. Breakfast can be a challenge! Everyone plays Wii games better than us. We had tea (see) with Alasdair Gray(!) and met up with a few of the Glasgow mafia (of the writing sort) in a pub with the best haggis in Scotland (or so said the writing on the wall). The Olympics were easier to watch (it’s UK-centric, but much less insipid and sentimental). The beer isn’t as good as in England (if you like bitter), but there were a few good ones, including Atlas Brewery’s in Kinlochleven—which we walked past while on the West Highland Way. Nothing like a local beer after a 10-mile walk. 100s of pics were taken, some may be uploaded later.

One of the things (the many things) we forgot to bring over were pedometers which would have been fun over that week. Should you ever be tempted to go on the walk, remember to check your jacket (zipped into its own pocket) is still carabinered onto your pack before you start up from lunch. Especially if this is a borrowed North Face jacket. Oops! If anyone found said jacket between Kinlochleven and Kingshouse, we’d love to hear from you.

Poverty Castle CoverOh well. It meant a trip to the shops (and the Marks and Sparks food section…) where we went to Zavvi (previously known as Virgin before a management buyout—just as Small Beer Press will be known as Lost the Plot Press after a similar buyout here) where we picked up the first season of The IT Crowd which seems simple but funny enough.

Read fewer books than might be expected (maybe all that walking and sleeping) but very much enjoyed Robin Jenkins’s Poverty Castle which seemed to be Jenkins (perhaps best known for his dark and amazing The Cone-gatherers) in his lightest mood. There are echoes of Compton Mackenzie’s entertainments (Monarch of the Glen, Whiskey Galore, etc.), as well as of Georgette Heyer, and even a light metafictional concept (we see the writer who is writing this story) in the set up: a family (husband, wife, 5 daughters) are suddenly enriched by the death of a faraway uncle. They decide to buy and restore an old house in Argyll and from there their story intermingles with their neighbors (an old aristo family), the villagers, and one of the daughter’s roommates at Glasgow University. The class observations of 1950s and ’60s Scottish life are acute, the characters—even if sometimes over the top—are rich. All in all a great escape, even if Jenkins cannot quite stick to his optimistic guns.


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