Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Deil is Knocking

The Deil he knocks on the door and waits.
While the rest of the world contemplates.

He watches and grabs every opportunity,
To cause trouble for just one of us or even a whole community.

Beware this night of Halloween.
Because it's either Heaven or Hell no between.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Food for Thought

Rev. Henry Duncan
    Each morning there are individuals, parents, grandparents and carers throughout the world who wake up and wonder how they're either going to feed themselves or those in their care that day.They may have a temporary crisis or a long-term one, due to illness, homelessness, unemployment and need to turn to a food bank.

    While the concept has come to the forefront this century there have been soup kitchens, food cooperatives and various other ways for charitable organisations to distribute food to the needy.

    I can personally remember of a food cooperative in the next village distributing food to the miners and their families back in 1984/85. They were suffering hardship due to the year-long industrial action by the National Union of Coal miners, which was the biggest of its kind in the UK since the General Strike of 1926.

    However, on my recent visit to Dumfries and Galloway, I came across a statue of a Rev. Henry Duncan of Ruthwell. The impressive sculpture adorning the front of a red stone building in the town instantly made me want to find out more about the man.

St Andrews University
    A well-educated man, having studied at St Andrews University and in Liverpool, Henry Duncan put his banking career behind him and returned to Scotland to study for the religious ministry in both the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

    But just as there are poverty stricken families today, there were also many in the 18th and 19th-centuries. Rev.Henry Duncan recognised that his poorer parishioners in Ruthwell, Dumfries and Galloway where he was now a minister, needed help. Coaxing and cajoling some of the wealthier parishioners into backing him, from a small cottage in his parish he distributed food and grain to the very poor.

    He also recognised that with help it is possible to turn lives around and from the same cottage he used his background of banking to set up a Friendly Society. Here savers received a healthy return on whatever little they managed to put by, and his model was the pioneer for the savings-bank we know today.

    He also was a writer, editor, publisher and founder of the Dumfries and Galloway Courier, a weekly newspaper published now known as the Dumfries Courier and published by the DNG media Group.

    A man I was glad I had taken the time to find out about.  

#WorldSavingsDay  #poverty #povertyisunnessary

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Products of the Author's Imagination

Rear-Admiral Thomas Cochrane

    As a writer, I love to find out what inspired, or inspires the fictitious characters of other writers. Was it a grumpy neighbour, family member, old school friend or maybe even the local barista? The writer may not use all of their traits but their little idiosyncrasies sometimes can unintentionally creep in and become part of the players characteristics.

    One individual who is said to have inspired C.S Forester's, Horacio Hornblower and Patrick O'Brian's, Captain Jack Aubrey, is Royal Naval officer Thomas Cochrane. Although a naval hero who was known as the 'Wolf of the Seas' by the French during the Napoleonic wars, he also had a questionable reputation. Which may not have been something so unusual in those bygone days.

    I came across a statue of him in the town of Culross, the other week and it was good to put a face to the character even he was a 'product of the author's imagination.'

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Where Literature and Bloodthirstiness Meet

Statue of Robert Burns and Greyfriars Church, Dumfries
     I like to take a road trip at least once a week with my partner. With the picnic hamper filled with lots of lovely goodies, including a flask of coffee packed away in the boot of the car, we set off as early as possible.  As to where we end up, it could be a twenty-minute drive away or as it was last week, a two-hour journey.

     You'll know if you are a regular reader that I have an interest in churches, graveyards, rivers, oceans, castles, amongst other things and I try to take as many photographs as I can to use in my blog and, therefore we plan our outings around that.

The Mid Steeple, Dumfries Town Centre
    Once I've done a little research, we sit down the night before, check the route, anticipated mileage and importantly, the weather forecast. If all seems in okay we're ready to rock 'n' roll.

    Last Tuesday was no different and I wanted to visit the town of Dumfries, Galloway. I had visited here many years ago and although I knew it is a town with a strong literary connection, I didn't realise it was also a burgh with a bloody history.

River Nith
     We parked in a car park overlooking the River Nith, an ideal place I thought to eat our picnic once we had walked around and explored the nooks and crannies I remembered or had discovered whilst fact-finding.

    It's literary past was the main reason of my visit because this is where Robert Burns created some of his best works such as Ae Fond Kiss. It was the place where he spent approximately 5-years before passing away and I've included a couple of pictures of the signs that now have pride of place on the outside of the white-painted building that was his home.

    Ironically, his statue stands near the Gothic revival, Greyfriars Church, while the church was re-built after Burns demise, he had actually been excommunicated by the clergy of its predecessor. A man who is infamous for his dry wit, as well as his romanticism, I think he would have thought he had the last laugh there.

Greyfriars Church
    The town's sanguinary past is a historian's dream, Robert the Bruce murdered, John III Comyn at Greyfriars Church in the early 14th-century, Scotland's first hanging also took place in the town,
and we shouldn't forget that burning witches in this part of Scotland were also a regular occurrence here in 15th and 16th-centuries.

Devorgilla Bridge
   At the end of our sight-seeing, it was time to get back into the car, eat, drink coffee and take in the beauty of the river as it flowed under the Devorgilla Bridge dating back to around 1432. It had been a great day and certainly gave me lots to think about.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Scotland at its Best

Looking out towards the Islands 

    Keeping up traditions and embracing the culture of our homeland, I believe is an important part of who we are and being Scottish is something you will know by now that I am proud of.

Corran Halls, 2nd from left.

    124-years ago The Royal National Mod, a celebration of Scottish literature, culture and language started in Oban, Argyllshire and for the 16th time in its history it has returned there this week, taking place in the Corran Halls.
    While many go along to converse, listen to performances in the native tongue Gaelic; choirs, pianists, pipers, fiddlers, and songsters go to compete for medals which are renowned worldwide.

    Oban I have featured previously, but it's worth another blog visit once again. Because when visiting here you could be in no other country in the world except Scotland.

Oban Distillery, centre photograph

    The music, whisky, seafood, and the scenery are Scotland at its best.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

When Scott met Burns

Painting depicting a young Sir Walter Scott meeting Robert Burns
    Today I was going to write about The National Library of Scotland planning in the next 10 years to make 8 million items in their care, accessible online to all. Featured will be manuscripts, poetry and letters belonging to famous Scots such as Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.

National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
    However, yesterday I went Abbotsford House, Melrose, home of Sir Walter Scott in the Scottish Borders. The large castle like building and gardens sit on the banks of the River Tweed and I can only describe them as being very grand. Befitting of an advocate and judge as Sir Walter Scott was.

Visitor book at Abbotsford House including signature of Oscar Wilde
     Scott was a collector of famous literary works and the visitors centre have some of these exhibited, one glass case contained volumes of, Pamela, by Samuel Richardson, dating back to the mid-eighteenth-century. There were also two visitor books which included the signatures of Oscar Wilde and Charles Dickens, to name but two of the many prestigious visitors to his home.

Burns, Tam O'Shanter changes done by Burns himself.
    One other thing that caught my eye was a painting by Charles Martin Hardie in 1893, depicting the one occasion that a young Sir Walter Scott met Robert Burns, a poet he much admired. The colours are still rich and captured the encounter as though it was painted recently.

Scott's home, Abbotsford House
     I'm sure when the 15-year-old Scott met Burns in Edinburgh in 1786, he never dreamed that both their works would be acclaimed by the World, or would be able to be accessed hundreds of years on.

Views from the terrace overlooking the River Tweed

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

It's Here!

    At 7.30 a.m yesterday morning, with my eyes half-closed I sat down in front of my P.C. Yawn! What exciting things were in the news today? Same old, same old.Taking a sip of my lukewarm cup of coffee, I signed into my Emails and opened my inbox. Suddenly my eyes opened wide and the fact that my morning beverage was rather tasteless seems totally irrelevant. There it was in the inbox, my book, the second in the Salvation series, Hyperlink to Lost Souls was about to be released.

    That was yesterday morning and now it's here! I want to share a little excerpt with you.


Salvation, Hyperlink to Lost Souls 
Christina Rowell

Day One: On the Road

    OMG, I'm on my way to a place called Tuktoyaktuk in the Northern territories. It seems the locals call it Tuk and if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me. Besides, all those key depressions on my android could give me repetitive strain injury.
    Before I set off, Mikey said to me, "Make sure and pack lots of warm clothing for your trip." So, I can only assume it's going to be on the nippy side. He didn't enlighten me as to what the actual temperature will be, but he informed me that it was a land of ice caps, pingos, aurora borealis, and the midnight sun. Which I think translates into, brrrrrrrrr, shiver, shiver. Oh, and by the way, for those of you who have just joined me, Mikey is my pet name for Archangel Michael. Not to his face of course.
    Now, I need to tell you about my new amigo. His name is Stan Carter and he's a truck driver. Come on, keep up. How could he drive a truck if he was dead? Don't even try to justify what you thought or said out aloud. He's very much alive and kicking, and he's the driver of the truck I've managed to hitch a ride in.
    Oh, apologies, apologies to my new friends who have just joined me. You don't know that I'm D- I don't say the 'D' word when I'm referring to myself. I have difficulty with the whole concept. You really should have read the first book before starting this one. If you had done so, I wouldn't need to keep explaining things as I go along. Boring the socks off the guys who joined me at the beginning of my journey on Earth. Whoa, I'm not complaining, the more the merrier. I rely on all you guys out there in the real world and I appreciate your marvelous company.
    Back to Stan, I approached him at a diner some five hours back. He lives in Tuk and kindly agreed to take me there. Sorry, he agreed to take us the rest of the way. That's if you're sticking around.
    Pleeease, pleeease. I'm pleading with you; I won't plead for too long. Great, make sure you pack your woollies. Well, maybe not. If you're lying on an exotic beach reading this, you sure would look dumb.
    Stan says that we'll reach Tuk in another three hours, as we've only one hundred fifty kilometers to go. We've just left Inuvik and it's going to be ice road all the way now. The ice road being the Mackenzie River, which is frozen solid.
    You know, appearances can be so deceptive. Let me explain myself; Stan is a big, scraggy faced guy, arms covered in tattoos and a head full of piercings. Well, not actually his skull, but you know the sort I mean. He has rings in his ears, nose, and eyebrows and his tongue clicks when he speaks, because there's a large silver stud in the middle of it. Eek! It was bad enough getting my demon early warning stud put in my earlobe. The thought of it still sends a shiver down my spine. Brrrrrr.
    What was I talking about before I digressed? Something that you newbies need to realize is that I do this on a regular basis. Oh, I was telling you about Stan. Yeah, yeah, Stan. If appearances were something to go by, you sure wouldn't pick a fight with this guy, no sir. But since I've been able to spend some one-on-one time with him, I've found out that he's a great big teddy bear.
    He's just invited me to stay at his place until I'm settled in Tuk. I'll fill you in on my cover story later. He said I can share a room with his son, who happens to be the same age as me. Coincidence? Don't think so. I've agreed because I believe this is where my adventure is about to start.
    Then again, it looks like my adventure could be starting here, right now. Holy cow! Visibility is very poor, a complete whiteout. Stan has slowed the truck down to 20 mph and the tail lights of the truck in front are no longer visible.
    Earlier some of Stan's fellow truckers warned him over the CB radio of the blizzards ahead. He tried to prepare me for this situation, but hell I never thought it would be as bad as this. Scar-eee. I don't know if I'm allowed to say hell in this context. Hell, I've said it anyway.
    "Don't panic, I know this road like the back of my hand. We just have to try to keep moving. The ice is real thin here and I don't feel like taking an ice-cold dip," says Stan calmly. He sounds unruffled, in fact he's as cool as a cucumber.
    "Neither do I. I didn't pack my swim shorts and I definitely don't fancy skinny dipping," I say, chuckling nervously. I can hear the ice road crackle under the weight of the wheels. Sooo, I'm hoping Mickey's following my progress and can give me some help if something goes wrong.
    Whoa, Stan has just slammed on the brakes. The truck's wheels have locked, we're now skating on the thin ice and we're not stopping. OMG, something very strange has happened to the road in front of us. A mound of sorts has risen up out of the ice and we're skidding straight towards it. Closer and closer we go.
I can see the front of it has opened up, like a grotto. The thing is, I don't think we're going to meet Saint Nick, or Our Lady of Lourdes in here. Aagh! I think we may be meeting up with the Tooth Fairy; we're now staring into the open jaws of a huge and I mean humongous, white cougar.

End of Excerpt.

You can read the rest of the excerpt and buy my Ebook . Other stockists will be available in the next week.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Not so Outlandish

Culross Palace

    We take for granted switching on the light, the kettle or the coffee machine, never mind charging up the laptop. However, we're now aware that we have to find alternative methods of making the energy that is required to power our gadgets and the things that we see as essential in our everyday lives.

Firth of Forth

    Back in Elizabethan times cooking and heating in UK homes was dependent of wood. But as supplies depleted due to the timber also being used for the building of ships and houses, it was important that an alternative source of energy be found. Yes, history is repeating itself here.

    Coal was being mined in Great Britain in the 16th and 17th century, however, the techniques being employed for extraction were primitive compared to those of their European counterparts. Ultimately, production was low and resulted in many of the mines falling into disuse.

Culross Palace, Bruce's home
    One  engineer, Sir George Bruce of Carnock, saw a business opportunity and took out the lease on one such disused mine in the coastal village of Culross, West Fife. By bringing the mine up to European standards and devising a way to make a workable tunnel out under the Firth of Forth, he was able to use the seam to its full potential.

Typical cobbled street

     The small port became a hub of activity, from here vessels took the coal and salt that was panned in the area, all over the world. Bruce himself became a wealthy man and had a large house built in the village or as it had become, Royal Burgh. The distinctive red tiles on the roof of his home and other roofs throughout the village were the return cargo on the ships that came back from Holland. Unfortunately unlike his mine many of these tiles have stood the test of time and examples of these can still be seen there.

Culross Abbey and House 
      Culross's cobbled streets, Market square (Mercat Square), Palace and Abbey have made it a film maker's dream. In the TV series, Outlander, it featured as the fictional village of Cranesmuir and it also played host to cast and crew of the 1971 film Kidnapped, starring Sir Michael Caine.

The Townhouse
     This village of approximately 400 residents is so timeless it would be easy to imagine that I had travelled there by time machine rather than a car. The Townhouse, a large 17th-century building which is now utilised as a visitors centre is where I stopped to take my last picture. In its history, it has had many usages, two being a court and prison to those accused of witchcraft.

    If one of its former inmates had appeared at a window while I was clicking away, I wouldn't have found it so outlandish. Of course, they would have popped by on a broomstick, not a motorcycle as in my picture.