The Borders

I first travelled through the border country between Scotland and England when I was only six weeks old with my parents on their motorbike and sidecar. Since then countless trips have been made for both work and pleasure, crossing the border on the various roads that traverse it. The most recent journey was yesterday. I picked up Alistair Moffat’s ‘The Borders: a history of the borders from earliest times’ in the bookshop in Moffat a few weeks ago even though it was first published in 2002. I have read some of his other books but had not spotted this one previously. Born and bred in the borders he had a television career and was Director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He now runs the Borders Book Festival which sadly I cannot get to this year. Alistair begins the book in prehistory with continental shifts and ice-ages, imagining what life would be like based on what we know from geology and archaeology. He then traces the various peoples who have lived in, fought over, worshipped in and moved through the area as well as the myths, traditions, writing, art and music inspired by it. He continues this up to the end of the 20th century and also provides a bibliography. There is a small selection of photographs in the centre. This book certainly reminded me of some things I had forgotten and added greatly to my understanding of the area I will be travelling through for many more years.

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31 Vintage Posters That Demand You Pick Up a Book | Literary Hub

We can all agree that propaganda is bad. Right? But wait, let me ask you: what about literary propaganda? That is, what if you encounter a poster, and it slyly, via trickery, encourages you to read…

Source: 31 Vintage Posters That Demand You Pick Up a Book | Literary Hub

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The Edge of Extinction


Jules Pretty is Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex and has written several books. This, sub-titled ‘Travels with enduring people in vanishing lands’ is the first I have read and was published in 2014. Many peoples are and have been endangered because of colonisation, industrialisation and more recently, climate change. I was particularly interested to read the chapters on New Zealand, Australia and Death Valley, California as we have trips planned there in the next two years. We also passed through Ohio and the Amish communities while driving the Lincoln Highway last summer. Other chapters cover communities in China, Russia, Finland, Canada, Louisiana and Botswana. People in England, tend to think of communities at risk as being overseas. Scotland of course is very aware of the Clearances which continued until the 19th century. However, two chapters of the book are devoted to UK peoples. Marsh Farm in East Anglia and the Antrim Glens in Northern Ireland which we are very familiar with as my husband hails from North Antrim. The different people Pretty meets on his travels are all finding ways of adapting to a new world. There are extensive notes and lists of other sources, some already familiar, others not. I suspect will be reading and re-reading this book for some time.

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Temples for the Literary Pilgrim – The New York Times

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Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales

With a planned visit to Iceland early in the diary for early next year, I could not resist picking up this book when I found it. The very next day, someone tweeted ‘Eight things to know about Iceland before you visit’, the first of which was that some people still believe in elves. I am very interested in mythology and its persistence in and adaption to modern life. The other night I caught the end of a programme about Ireland where someone was proudly announcing that a new road had been diverted round a fairy tree so as not to upset them.


The book was first published in Iceland in 1987 and the English translation in 2000. It was derived from a collection by a 19th century folklorist who had recorded many stories preserved in oral tradition. In addition to elves, there are chapters on Ghosts and Sorcerers, Saints and Sinners and a miscellaneous section with tales about serpents, giants, an ogress and others. It is illustrated with black and white drawings by Kjartan Gudjónsson.  I will be interested to see how many are still detectable on my visit.

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Merits of Reading (e)Books – CONFESSIONS OF A READAHOLIC

Having a book to read on the fly is a wonderful advantage that an ebook reading application or an eReader provides. In this digital age, we are doing it wrong if we are mingling with thought of “Eb…

Source: Merits of Reading (e)Books – CONFESSIONS OF A READAHOLIC

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Red - 1

Terry Tempest Williams’ book has accompanied me for part of my transcontinental journey across the USA. I found it in a bookshop in Wooster, Ohio and it has stayed with me now that we have reached the Pacific coast. She lives in and writes about the southern Utah desert; red being the predominant colour of the landscape. Our journey was limited to passing through northern Utah but I certainly want to explore the southern canyons at some point. At various points in our journey the landscape was red but only briefly, before the geology changed and in Northern Utah the white of salt is predominant. Much of the land in the American West is in public hands as protected wilderness and this brings tensions with those individuals trying to eke out a living in and alongside this environment where only small amounts of the territory are in private hands. This is unlike national parks in the UK, where people do live and work. She explores the meaning of wilderness to herself, others she knows and also to the Navajo and other tribes of the surrounding area. Her discussions around the language of the colour chime with my interest as an artist. This book will stay with me and I hope return to Utah with me one day.

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