Monday 15 November 2021

The Glamour of Book Week Scotland - With Luath Press Discount!

It's Book Week Scotland! This week is packed with literary and non-fiction stars. Why on Thursday 18 November alone, you can meet Christopher Brookmyre in Helensburgh, or watch Alan Cumming online with Scots language enthusiast Len Pennie. If your mind takes a more outdoor bent, you can see Alan Rowan talk hillwalking. Or if you are really in the know - and this is one for the true afficionado of the obscure, the discerning person who likes that nobody else knows their favourite author, you can come and watch me, live, in a funeral parlour, talk about how not to climb hills.   

If that doesn't catch your fancy, then something a little more glamorous is Lynn Coleman's How Scotland Dressed the World. You might not think Scotland fertile territory for fashion compared to the catwalks of Paris or Milan, but prepare to be educated. Coleman explains how the base metal of fashion, the textiles clothes are made of, has surprisingly often been sourced in the weaving sheds and mills of Scotland: 

Think rustic outdoor settings and blankets over chairs to keep guests warm. Butter-soft cashmere stoles over silky bridesmaid dresses. Flowers sprayed everywhere, colours popping with tartan. Special weave cashmere kilts teamed with chunky cable knits. It looks authentically homemade but oozes luxury with every tactile touch.

If that sounds like your thing, including chapter titles taken from modern Scots (Gallus, Peely-wally, Bunnet), then check the book out

Lynn's people also say this:

We would like to offer discounts to your readers on purchases through our website with 20% off orders over £20 with the code LUATH2020, and 30% off over £50 with LUATH3050.

So get yourself to the Luath Press website, see what books you like, and grab yourself some discounted copies!

Monday 8 November 2021

Callanish II

Callanish is world-famous. Less so than Stonehenge perhaps, but its isolation in the Western Isles has protected it from the tourist horde. You can wander around the stones at Callanish in an intimate fashion that is just no longer possible at roped-off Stonehenge.

But of the relatively few folk who make it to Callanish, how many know that it is just one of many stone circles in the area? There are eighteen in total, transforming the whole of East Loch Roag into a monumental sacred landscape. 

At Callanish II:

What was its purpose? These giant exclamation marks on the landscape demand an explanation. Folklore across Britain tells of men who were dancing on the Sabbath and turned into stones by the devil, of giants who refused to build churches and were turned into stones by saints. Later historians associated stone circles with druids, the priestly caste active around the time of Christ. None of these explanations gets anywhere close to the real origin story.

Callanish I from Callanish III:

But in On the Ocean, Greek explorer Pytheas gives some clues. He left Marsailles around 325BC to explore the Atlantic and Baltic coasts, leaving their first written descriptions. At 58 degrees north in the island of the Hyperboreans, he came across a temple where the locals worshipped Apollo, who danced every nineteen years with their goddess. The only place this fits is Callanish, from where the 'lunar standstill' can be seen, a regular 19-year phenomena where the moon barely rises then flirts with a distant range of hills called Caillich na Mointeach, the 'Old Woman of the Moors'.

Two stones of Callanish III, the hills known as the Cailleach, and a sheep's arse:

Was that then the original purpose of Callanish? Here's some perspective: we may think Pytheas lived a long time ago, but he was kicking about nearer our own time than when the stones were erected around 3,000BC. Who knows what may have changed in the over 2,500 years before he visited?

Sunset at Callanish II: