Tuesday, June 27, 2006

When the Gorse is in Bloom

Do you know that the Scottish word for gorse is 'whin'? And that there is an old saying which goes 'When the gorse is in bloom, kissing's in season'. The reason for that, is that there is some kind of gorse, or whin, in bloom here in Scotland, almost the whole year round! Even on winter walks through the countryside, you will see a scattering of cheerful yellow blossoms.
But springtime, May, of all months, is the best time of the year to see the Scottish whins in full, astonishing bloom - visit the Western Isles of Scotland and you will be dazzled by vistas of gold accompanied by the headiest of scents . Did you know that the whins smell of coconut oil? I always wonder what the travelling Scots thought when they had their first scent of coconut. Did it remind them of the whins, back home?
In the old days, on the Hebridean islands, blankets would be left out on the whins to air. The thorns would hold them in place, and prevent them from blowing away. But one unwelcome side effect, as somebody told me from bitter experience, was that you might get a thorn in an uncomfortable place, in the night! For make no mistake - these shrubs may be very beautiful, but they are also full of sharp thorns.
I love old woollen blankets and throws, finding them warm, attractive and full of character. Not surprisingly, in view of our winter weather, the Scots were pretty good at weaving blankets. As well as using them in my own home, thrown over a couch or bed or tucked cosily around my knees, in this rather drafty old cottage, I sometimes sell them in my Ebay Shop, but I'm never tempted to throw them over a neighbouring gorse bush. However, I do hang them outside whenever I can. If you have the means to do it, don't forget that - just like us - many old textiles can benefit from a little fresh air and light, now and then!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Welcome to The Scottish Home

Not just my Scottish home, of course, but lots of others as well. I hope that the Scottish Home will be a source of pleasure, and a useful resource for all those with a Scottish connection, as well as for those who - like me - simply love the place.
We moved up here when I was barely thirteen years old. That was a long time ago, and although I've travelled a good deal since then, I always return to Scotland with a sense of delight at coming home.
I'm a writer but I also collect and deal in antique textiles. I'm married to a sculptor, and we live in a 200 year old Scottish cottage (It just manages to be Georgian, rather than Victorian!) in a small Scottish conservation village. I've been involved in renovating several old properties, so I know some of the pitfalls involved. Besides that, with a Masters Degree in Folk Life Studies, I find myself fascinated by local and social history and folklore as well as what the academics please to call 'vernacular architecture.' (Traditional buildings, to you and me.) I've also written audio material for various heritage sites in Scotland, including Culross and Falkland Palace in Fife, and have been enchanted by the wealth of detail I uncovered.
And finally, with a large cottage garden to contend with on a daily basis, I still, somehow, manage to find the time to be passionately interested in other old Scottish gardens, their layout, their history, and their characteristic plants.
So why the Scottish Home? Well, partly it's because I so seldom find the kind of informed pieces which I myself might like to read about Scottish houses and their contents, from cottages to castles, with everything in between. And partly because as a freelance writer I find the freedom and immediacy of the blog exhilarating. I can keep my postings seasonal, and well up to date without having to think about Christmas in midsummer, as I would have to do if I were contributing to a regular magazine. I can post longer pieces, or informative snippets. And I can indulge my interest in researching all kinds of things that we perhaps take for granted, here in Scotland, and then go on to share the results with you. I hope to build my blog, and a Scottish Home website which is currently under construction, into a useful and entertaining resource for all those who might wish to bring a little piece of Scotland into their own home.