Sunday, May 25, 2008

Culzean on a Windy Day

Spent a few hours at Culzean (pronounced Cullane) Castle today and as you can see from the picture, it was brilliantly sunny but windy beyond belief. Not a good day for sailing though husband points out that it is on days like this that people tend to remark 'nice day for a sail' as if anyone would enjoy bouncing along in the teeth of a screaming gale with white horses on all the waves... But it was beautiful at the castle. Son and I walked and talked and sat outside the little cafe near the castle, (in a brisk wind) drinking coffee and eating scones and dropping crumbs for the cheeky chaffinches. Then we went to the poetry reading in the walled garden and then we walked down to the beach and back, mainly to discuss a wee literary project we're considering which will involve a certain amount of collaboration. Culzean is a National Trust property and very beautiful though it seemed surprisingly quiet today, the sunday before a May bank holiday monday. Perhaps it was just that we were there quite early and left before mid afternoon. Also, the estate is so big that it can swallow large numbers of people and still not appear busy. We're members of the National Trust so visit the place regularly, but it isn't a particularly cheap afternoon out for a family. Not that it's not worth it, because it is. But if I wasn't a member of the Trust (and perhaps if I didn't live so close to one of its major attractions in Scotland, I wouldn't be) I doubt very much if we would have gone there today. Instead, we would probably have gone to Maidens or Dunure or Girvan and walked along the beach looking at the same lovely view.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Late Eighteenth Century Christening Cape

I bought this at auction here in Scotland some time ago. Having loved it and looked at it for a while, I've decided to sell it - so I'm listing it on the Scottish Home this week. It is a very late eighteenth century christening cape which was made by one Elizabeth Ann Barlow, who died in 1829. She made it herself, this wonderful tiny 'sprigging' - a myriad of little flowers, including pinks and rosebuds and violas - for her babies and for her descendents. It is kind of sad that it ended up in the saleroom but I think it's wonderful and am hoping that somebody will buy it who also thinks it is wonderful and who may be able to conserve it and display it in the right setting. It would have served to keep a baby warm - being worn over the light lacy baby gowns of the period. An expert has confirmed to me that it is an eighteenth century piece, but 'only just' - ie it dates from the very late 1700s, and probably looks forward in style to nineteenth century christening capes, ie Elizabeth was ahead of her times! I considered keeping it because I am currently writing a novel called The Physic Garden about a gardener and a baby from exactly this period or just a little later, but all the same, it is probably time for it to go elsewhere, and be properly cared for!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Picture of Edwardian Ayr, the Pavilion on the Green

Here's the latest of Alan Lees' 'naive' studies of - mainly - Ayrshire and Renfrew, with a few wee excursions elsewhere. The Pavilion which you can see in the background was built in 1911. I used to go to dances there when I was 16 (ie a long time ago but not quite as long ago as that!) It was very very respectable in those days, no alcohol as far as I remember. After that it seemed to go downhill a bit but more recently it has been nicely restored as 'Pirate Pete's' aimed at children and the exterior looks much as it must have done back in the early twentieth century when the tourist trade on the Clyde was flourishing and many Glasgow people came 'Doon the Watter' on holiday. This is a lovely detailed artwork which you can also find here. Alan Lees, having moved from sculpture to painting over the last few years, is finding these old Clyde Coast scenes particularly inspirational and particularly popular. This one has a variety of people including an ice cream seller, a wee lad with his 'gird and cleek' at the bottom right, an elegant young couple, two wee lassies at the drinking fountain and a variety of other children skipping, playing football, etc. He can hardly keep up to the demand for these pictures, which seem to strike a chord with so many people. 'They make you feel happy' said one customer recently - which is no bad thing. Because of the demand, he is considering having prints and greetings cards made but is also trying to work towards an exhibition for next year, for the great clan Homecoming and the Robert Burns anniversary. If you own a likely Clyde Coast venue (preferably one with a historic holiday connection, eg a hotel or restaurant or traditional cafe) and would like to host such an exhibition for summer 2009 please do contact us via Alan's website

Monday, May 05, 2008

Spring has Sprung

and the swallows have come back. This morning we went down towards Girvan and stopped off for an early coffee at Dowhill Farm Shop which sells the best pineapple fruit cake in the world. The birds were fluttering among the eaves of the old farm buildings with that peculiar excitement with which they seem to greet their old haunts when they return, for all the world as if they're delighted to be back. And we're certainly glad to see them.
Arran was just emerging from the morning mist and Ailsa Craig was floating on its own cloud, like Tir Nan Og, in the distance. We were taking photographs as inspiration for paintings so you'll probably see some of them on here in due course. The whins are in golden, coconut scented bloom and the hedgerows are full of bluebells - it really is an idyllic time of year. For the first time ever, we walked down towards the lighthouse at Turnberry, which was built on top of Robert the Bruce's castle (well, one of them anyway!) - you can just see the remains in the picture. It involves a pleasant walk across one of the most famous golf courses in the world, and you get the distinct feeling that the right to roam is an ever so slightly unwelcome concept for some of the golfers - but the path is a good one and access is through a well made wooden style so the hotel is certainly amenable to civilized walkers, which is what we were!