It’s been a busy winter, mostly work with a couple of illnesses thrown in, so I’ve had little time to blog or indeed to answer all of the emails I receive, so if yours has been one of those I didn’t get to then apologies.
This weekend particularly has been frustrating. I should have been at three events, one of which was the DDRA AGM, however a virus that I picked up some weeks ago reared its head again during the week in the forms of a hacking cough and headaches and by the time Friday came I was feeling worn out by it and in no condition to attend either an old friend’s 50th birthday that night or the AGM on the Saturday. As there were a number of old friends from the USA attending who I had looked forward to seeing this was galling to say the least. My regrets to those people – I hope we’ll have other chances to meet up – and to my colleagues on the DDRA committee.
The current Lymond re-read on the Game of Kings discussion group has continued to be of very high standard from what I’ve seen, although I’ve usually been so far behind in my own reading that any comment I might have had time to make would have been from memory – and we all know how fickle that can be with any Dunnett book. Indeed there have been a number of sections of Queens’ Play that have surprised me again with new insights and slants. For instance I’d forgotten quite how inept and hateful a character Robin Stewart was around the period of his time in the Tower of London, or of how sharp were the exchanges with Margaret Lennox when “Vervassal” retrieves Phelim from her house and the monkey is killed by her evilly thrown sewing box. How cleverly Dorothy shows us the essentially good nature of the hitherto somewhat apathetic O’Liam Roe around this time; despite him also resenting Lymond’s interference with Oonagh. And how convoluted the political machinations are – it’s not just for Phelim and Henrisson that Lymond’s explanations of the ever-shifting landscape are needed.
I’ve had few successes in converting new readers but I think I’ve finally earned my ‘toaster’ – my dear friend and assistant in the last couple of years on the Thins website has been reading Niccolo Rising and has asked for Spring of the Ram. I’ve recently been building her a website for her jewellery design business which had started life on eBay and I’d encourage any of you who enjoy wearing interesting designs to take a look at it – www.redscorpiondesign.co.uk
She’s interested to see if there are any inspirations for jewellery in the books and I’ve already mentioned Murano glass as one possible idea – if anyone has any other suggestions then please pass them on to me.
Books, always books…
Another current web project is for someone well known in Dunnett circles – Cindy Byrne who co-organised the events in Dublin and on Malta, moved to Campbeltown in the south-west of Scotland last year to take over The Old Bookshelf; a combined bricks-and-mortar and internet bookshop. The previous website proved to be unusable so I’ve been building a new one for her and recently snatched a few days in that delightfully peaceful area of the country in order to study the business and plan the further development of the site. It’s far from finished but I’m sure many of you will be interested in any Dunnett-friendly place to buy books so do drop by. Cindy is clearly right at home there and despite having to take time out for an eye operation is enjoying both the area and the ownership of a bookshop; an ambition of hers from an early age.
As mentioned above, at around the time I post this the DDRA AGM and weekend will be taking place in Edinburgh and is being immediately followed by a Dunnett get-together based in Saddell, (which is a village in Kintyre not many miles from Cindy’s new home) organised by Diana Crane who is well known for the long-running Oxford Days. While the Kintyre area doesn’t feature in the historical novels it was certainly known to Johnson Johnson, and Dorothy and Alastair sailed in the area themselves – Dorothy’s introduction to the Crinan Canal may well have inspired Nicholas’ sinking of the cannon scene in Niccolo Rising. If the attendees get the sort of weather I had on the final day of my trip they’ll have marvellous views over to Arran as well as the usual convivial Dunnett atmosphere. I can’t be with them this time so very best wishes to them all for a great few days.
There is a new feature which has recently been added to Google Maps which allows you to add your own maps with annotations and lines of travel. This is something I’ve long wanted to add to the Dunnett site and have experimented with over the years but the lack of an easy facility to zoom in (and the usual difficulties of copyright) has always meant I was dissatisfied with the results. The Google system is exactly what I was looking for and I’m currently putting together the basics of maps for Queens’ Play and for Pawn in Frankincense. I’ll continue this over the next few weeks so if you’ve any suggestions once they’re complete I’d be glad to hear them. The only problem so far is that Google has the placenames in the local language – not much of a problem in France but rather more of one in North Africa and even more so in Greece!