Winter Greetings from Edinburgh
I’d originally intended to get this out for last month but the stresses of job-hunting and a number of other personal matter (mum’s been in hospital for the last two weeks) have side-tracked me. I’ve also been having a lot of email problems – despite now having three different ISPs – and have been missing quite a few days incoming mail and a disturbing number of outgoing messages. I was thus reluctant to send out a newsletter until I was confident that it would go out without too many problems. I suspect that much of the difficulties have been caused by the massive number of worm-distributed fake Microsoft patches that were going around for a while as the failures mostly coincided with attempts to filter out those messages due to load they imposed on servers. One of the ISPs said that they were getting 4Gb of them a day at the height and before I found a suitable spam filter to run on my mailboxes I was getting around 40-50 of them a day. If any of you are having problems with spam and fake attachments then I can recommend Mailwasher as an excellent solution. Just as an added complication a couple of days ago AOL bounced a message I sent out via Freeserve (the largest UK ISP and part of the multinational Wanadoo group) and it looks as if they’ve blacklisted them so I’ll be using a different outgoing server and keeping fingers well and truely crossed. It’s maybe about time I set up my own mail server but that will have to wait until I have a permanent connection.
Orkney story and pictures
The principle feature of this newsletter is something I’ve had in half-finished form since last year – a description of the return trip I made to Orkney in August 2002. With the Claes group re-reading King Hereafter it seemed an appropriate time to finish it off and I’ve added some new Orkney photos to both the Dunnett web site, where I’ve rewritten and expanded the Orkney page, and my personal site, where I’ve added a second page for Orkney photos. Both Orkney trip descriptions have been put onto the Dunnett website and I’ll put some illustrations into them later.
Another site that you may want to check out is www.maeshowe.co.uk which is run by Orkney photographer Charles Tait. With the winter solstice coming up he’s set up three web cams which, weather permitting, will show the sun streaming down the low passageway and being reflected around the interior of Maes Howe. He has loads of pictures on that and his other associated sites including some very atmospheric shots of Brodgar in mist and one of the sites has some wonderful photos of the recent spectacular Auroras. I rather think I could die happy if I could see an aurora from the Ring of Brodgar!
Writers Museum Exhibition page
There is a new page just added (www.dorothydunnett.co.uk/duwritersmuseum.htm) with some pictures of the small exhibition about Dorothy in the Writers Museum in Edinburgh. Once again we’re indebted to Elspeth Morrison for putting that together. The two interior pictures aren’t the greatest as I wasn’t really supposed to be taking them and the person I needed to get permission from wasn’t available. One of them shows the Warming Apple and the Unicorn Collar in the display case and I knew everyone would like to see those. If I get a chance I’ll go back and try and get permission for proper photos with the serious camera gear. The museum is an interesting building dating originally from 1622 and known as Lady Stair’s House. Extensively restored by Lord Roseberry in 1897, it now houses full time exhibitions about three of Scotland’s most famous writers – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson, with many artefacts and pictures which will fascinate all devotees of literature.
There are also additions to the pictures in the Edinburgh pages (www.dorothydunnett.co.uk/duvisitsedin.htm)
Venice Pictures and new Maps
Since the last newsletter I’ve added a new item to the Dunnett Places to Visit in Europe page – some photos of the eternally romantic city of Venice very kindly sent to me by Sharon Michalove. (www.dorothydunnett.co.uk/duvisits2venice.htm)
A Maps page has also been added with centralised links to the maps on the site, including a new map of Europe in Nicholas’ time and a redrawn and slightly clearer Orkney map. I hope to add further items when time allows. (www.dorothydunnett.co.uk/dumaps.htm)
Forthcoming Events page
There is now a long overdue Forthcoming Events page with details of the various Spits and Gatherings (www.dorothydunnett.co.uk/duevents.htm).
A notable one for those living “down-under” is the Sydney Revel in Australia on Saturday 17th January 2004 being organised by Michael Sedin. There is a registration form you can download if you want to attend this, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Along with the now well established UK dates such as Oxford there are also plans for a gathering in Malta in either Autumn 2004 or Spring 2005 and there is a Yahoo discussion group formed by Simon Hedges and Cindy Byrne to arrange this if you’re interested in seeing the home of the Knights.
DDRA AGM in April
Of course we also want to see as many of you as possible in Edinburgh in April for the 4th DDRA AGM. Alongside the AGM there will be a talk on the Unicorn Tapestry project by one of the weaving team from Stirling and Charles Burnett will give us more insight into Heraldry. Stirling – site of the Papingo Shoot in Game of Kings – is also the focus of the Sunday trip and we’ll take in the site of the Battle of Bannockburn on the way. A visit to the 16th century Argyll’s Lodging and lunch in Mar Place House will then leave the whole afternoon for exploration. Of course the E2000 Gathering Banquet was held in the Great Hall of Stirling Castle and it will be good to get a chance to explore the castle in more detail than was possible then. Cost is UKP 33 for the Saturday and UKP 27 for the Sunday trip.
Bookings or enquiries should be sent to The Editor, Whispering Gallery, 9 Gillespie Crescent, Edinburgh. Note that she’ll be away during February and during that time I’ll be taking enquiries instead.
At this point I should make an appeal to anyone whose subscription to the DDRA has lapsed – issue 81 has just come out and if you didn’t receive one it may be that you were one of the 37 people who were due to renew after issue 80 but didn’t. If you’re unsure please contact me as I now administer the membership database. We need as many members as possible to keep the Association going and keep Dorothy’s legacy of writing available to as wide a readership as possible.
Renaissance Band CD problems
A word about the Edinburgh Renaissance Band CD – I’ve been unable to get hold of my usual band contact Peter Jones since August, and his phone number has been out of service for some months, so I currently don’t have any copies of the CD. I’m trying to get hold of other band members at the moment. Will keep you posted.
I do still have signed copies of the Lymond Poetry for anyone who is looking for it.
Dunnett Readers in Spain
Earlier this year I received a message from Liza Cochrane in Spain who’s been running reading classes on Lymond! I asked if she could elaborate for us and she sent me the following delightful article.
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At various stressful times in my life, I’ve escaped into the 16th century. Reading the Lymond Chronicles again last summer, I realised just how much history I’d learned from them, and because of them! I live on Spain’s Costa del Sol where, for 4 years, I’d been giving a U3A course on Art History. Why not give Art a rest and offer a course on 16th century history? Being a Scot, I thought I might start with the How When and Why the United Kingdom became united. Why not, in fact, use Game of Kings as a starting point? The result was: 10 readers signed up for the course, all ex-pats like myself – a fellow Scot, three Americans, the rest English. To their own subsequent astonishment, none of them had even heard of Dorothy Dunnett! One lady commented, “I wondered how we were going to spend six sessions discussing one book. But then I started to read it; and it’s not just an ordinary book, is it?”
“I found history boring at school,” said another.
“If only we’d had a book like this, making it so real!”
After Kings, I suggested we skip on to Disorderly Knights, but two members (hooked on Lymond) insisted they read Queens’ Play, so I asked them to give us all a rÃ©sumÃ© of it – which also allowed time for everyone to do the inevitable re-reading of Knights! During the Christmas break, two members went to Malta and returned with maps and books.
We studied the history of the Knights. We sidetracked into heraldry. Those of us with Internet researched Dragut Rais. I passed around my holiday photographs taken inside and outside a Scottish keep (Hunterston Castle, in fact) to explain the fight at Liddel Keep. I also encouraged those English members who’d never visited Scotland (!) to take a trip to the Borders on their next visit ‘home’ – and to look out for the keeps that belonged to the Kerrs. You can tell, I said, from the spiral stairs twisting the ‘other’ way, for defence by left-handed swordsmen.
“Fascinating!” said someone. “I know a Kerr. He’s left-handed.” (Corrie- or Kerrie?- fisted.)
By that time, we were all caught up in the Lymond story, so we’re about to start the new term and Pawn. Two members have bought all six books. One couldn’t stop, and has read the lot. Another “rationing myself”, she says, has deliberately left Checkmate in England for a Christmas treat.
She told me a funny story. At Easter, travelling back from England by train, there was a three-hour hold-up in France. She didn’t mind. She was engrossed in Pawn. Last week, travelling back from England by train, there was another delay. She didn’t mind. She was deep in Ringed Castle… But she’s wondering if bringing Checkmate back after Christmas might be tempting fate!
At least one of us (our computer guru) dips into several of the DD websites, but where our reading of the last three books will take us, who knows? Moscow? Istanbul? A search for Sevigny?
I did that very thing many years ago, and wrote to Dorothy about it. Her charming and lengthy reply (typed, with errors corrected in ink) has been with me through four ‘flittings’ – including the move to Spain. A treasure to treasure! My greatest pleasure has been in introducing Dorothy’s ‘box of delights’ to a group of brand new fans.
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Liza tells me she even negotiated a discount at her local English-language bookshop since they’ve been doing bulk sales of DD books! Long may she continue her excellent “missionary” work and many thanks for letting us know about it.
On to the main item. Many people wrote to me after I produced the Modern Orkney Saga to say how much they enjoyed it so I thought you might also appreciate a description of a second trip I made just over a year later.
This article has now been given its own page on the main website – Return to Orkney – and removed from this post.
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That’s all for now. Off to do some more job hunting.
A good New Year to you all when it comes