A Scots Quair, seagulls and orphaned books

It’s nearing the end of the second week of the school holidays here, and I thought we’d better cobble together some kind of day out away from screens before my daughter’s eyes fell out of her head and smashed on the ground like deep-friend marbles. There are lots of castles and the like, but they cost an arm and a leg and not all of them have gift shops where you can buy a pencil and rubber with the name of the place on, which we know, is the reason for going anywhere.

While looking for somewhere cheap, I came across the Lewis Grassic Gibbon Centre. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read A Scots Quair, which is rather like a reader in Wales saying ‘Dylan who?’

Lewis Grassic Gibbon was the pen name of James Leslie Mitchell, he wrote about rural Aberdeenshire life as well as some sci-fi that H.G Wells admired, before dying in his thirties of complications from an ulcer. I feel I have to read the first novel of the three in A Scots Quair, Sunset Song, it before I can full appreciate a trip to the centre, and to the kirkyard where his ashes are scattered. That may not always be necessary, lots of people enjoy a trip to Charles Dickens’ birthplace having only seen a Muppet Christmas Carol, and one lady I met on a walk about Newstead Abbey told me she was in love with the place, and that Byron was her favourite painter (ooohhhkay, one of those times bluffing didn’t pay off for her, but it seemed mean to correct her), but it does spur me on to finish the book in time for my next day off.

In the meantime, I took my daughter to the beach, where after a rainy, windy walk, we ate chips in the car while seagulls slowly circled the vehicle on foot, heads cocked and eyes upwards, waiting for a window to open and chips to be flung from heaven.

I have also bought a Michael Faber, a man who never writes the same book twice, as well as the only Sarah Waters I have yet to read. All of these books are new, and therefore move up the TBR pile faster than anything picked up second hand. There seems something decadent and wasteful about leaving a brand new book on the shelf for too long. Why did you buy me if you weren’t going to read me? they say. Books from charity shops have far less of an attitude, they are just so glad to be adopted after weeks of singing to themselves about how the sun will come out tomorrow, tomorrow, betcha bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun.

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