Duffus Castle looms, majestic and huge against the skyline as you approach. It’s imposing and impressive… dramatic too…
On the day I visited – Easter Sunday – it was busy, really busy, and the air contained a mysterious hint of sulphur. This medieval fortress of the Moray family, one of Scotland’s most beautiful motte and bailey castles, had become a giant playground for the seasonal pastime of ‘egg rolling’.
2019 continues to be an exciting year for me on the bookish front! My contemporary novel, TENDU, is coming out in 2020 with Black Opal Books.
Some aspects of the story:
It’s a tale of unconventional love, dance and obsession.
Much of the book is set in Scotland.
There’s a stone circle and a castle.
The central relationship is deeply tempestuous.
Dark and terrible happenings!
Hot chocolate and cake. Depending on era, you can’t always include chocolate in historical writing and, given all that I put them through, my characters both need and deserve it. So there’s lots of chocolate in this contemporary title. LOTS.
And there’ll obviously have to be lots at my desk too 🙂
The Women’s Land Army was formed in 1917, and then again in 1939 when WWII broke out. Women as young as 17 signed up for the duration of the war and took on all forms of farming and food production. The Army was eventually disbanded in 1950. There’s lots more information about the Land Girls here.
The memorial at Clochan in Moray is a joyous piece of art, paying tribute to the women who served in the Land Army throughout Scotland. Stones from various farms across the country have been incorporated into the ground around the gate. The fact that the memorial is surrounded by working farmland feels perfectly fitting too.
If you visit on a Sunday morning, as I did, there’s a small car boot sale going on just down the road in Clochan, with pancakes and tea being served in the village hall. It’s rather lovely and feels a bit like stepping back into a simpler time.
I ran through St Nicholas Kirkyard, and down and round Correction Wynd, an old medieval lane in Aberdeen, to see this recent street art. I was due to meet people for breakfast, but determined to see the ‘Quine Shrine’ first. The reason being? That first part, on the left, honours those who were persecuted for witchcraft in Aberdeen, and one tile names a few of them, including the three women I chose to write about in The Mermaid and the Bear.
The spellings are different, because spellings weren’t set back then, not like they are today. I chose to go with the way the names are recorded in the Survey Of Scottish Witchcraft from Edinburgh University. It was there that I learned, contrary to popular belief, that only a tiny proportion of those accused were midwives or folk healers; a mere 9 of the 3837 ‘witches’ in Scotland were midwives, and only 141 had some mention of healing in their cases (see the background page of the database).
In my fictional account of these women’s lives, one of them is a midwife and healer, but this is not the reason for the accusations brought against the three quines.
Beautiful Aikey Brae. Of the 150 or so recumbent stone circles in the North East of Scotland, this is my favourite.
I used to live close by and enjoyed many a summer picnic and winter stroll there. One year I watched a solar eclipse, with my children, sat right in the middle of the circle. The setting made it feel timeless and magical.
Above: a scene from a walk in the moonlight, because I so appreciate being able to go on walks now that I can’t wait for daylight!
It’s been a strange summer. I spent much of it being ill, properly ‘can’t do anything, go anywhere, just have to sit still‘ ill. I feel changed by it. I have such huge appreciation for the good in my world now: the wonderful people I share my life with, the amazing place I live.
Seriously, there was no better place to lie around being ill than in my garden. Bats and giant dragonflies kept coming out of the pond and trees to peer at me. Tall trees rustled protectively around me. And the sun shone and shone this summer, didn’t it?
For years I passed by the road signs for Findlater Castle on my way to other places, joking that ‘I must find that later’. I’m so glad I finally did! I’ve been a few times now and it’s always stunning.
On this day it was exceptionally warm and still for Northern Scotland which emboldened me to go a bit further down onto the ramparts than I’ve been before.
Off I went, past the gorse which was warmed by the sun and smelled all coconutty…