Noir – author and experts

Recently, husband and I were pleased to receive an invitation to a book launch, not in the tented village of the Edinburgh book festival, but not far from it in Waterstones, the well-known book shop, at the west end of Princes Street. Lin Anderson, Tartan Noir crime novelist and co-founder of the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival, was launching another book – None but the Dead – about her forensic pathologist Rhona MacLeod, the action of this taking place on the small Orkney island of Sanday.

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On the eleventh day of April

What is so special about the eleventh day of April? A hint. It’s not the eleventh of April this year I’m referring to.

It’s the eleventh day of April 1868. Ring any bells? Probably not — unless you live in Japan. For on the eleventh of April 1868 the era of the Tokugawa Shogunate was brought to a close with the restoration of the Emperor Meiji.

Now, before you hit the delete button and move on to another email, consider this.

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February 14th

February 14th. St Valentine’s Day. But who was St Valentine and why do we celebrate it as a lovers’ day with red hearts, roses and sloppy cards?

St Valentine was a Catholic saint, or according to some sources one of two or three, all martyred, one of whom is said to have sent a letter to his loved one (his jailor’s daughter) from his Roman prison and signed it from your Valentine.

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Expression in the eyes

Today, the thirteenth of November, Edinburgh celebrates Robert Louis Stevenson Day, thought the birthday commemoration has in fact spawned a week of events from the ninth to the fifteenth – http://www.cityofliterature.com/rlsday-2015/events/

Robert Louis Stevenson, born in Edinburgh on 13th November 1850, is, according to Amazon ranked the twenty fifth most translated author in the world. Stevenson was an essayist, poet, travel writer and novelist, his best-known works being Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, as well as his children’s poetry collection A Child’s Garden of Verses.

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Books, talks, and Totty Rocks

One of the many festivals in Edinburgh at this time of year is the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Its programme of events is so large that when listed make a book to add to the thousands for sale at the event.

Nowhere else can you rub shoulders and chat with so many authors and celebrities from around the world, all keen to woo the public in order to give us their views on the world, to sell their books. Exciting stuff!

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Something important happened here

Edinburgh, capital city of Scotland, maybe a small city (the population is just under half a million)) but is one brimming with history. From medieval Old Town to elegant Georgian New Town complete with gardens and neoclassical buildings, it rolls out into Victorian and modern suburbs. Its parks and open spaces such as the Links, the Meadows, and Princes Street Gardens contrast with Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano in Holyrood Park, and the Castle which broods on it hilltop, watching over its city, protecting Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny.

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Quietly buzzing

I’m sure I’ve been inside before. I must have…surely. Yet I can’t remember when. And the vague memory flitting round my mind isn’t borne out by the interior. I’ve heard it said that visitors often know places better than local people, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this were true. So much of our surroundings we take for granted, and if we have visited once, small hand clutching the larger hand of parent or grandparent, we somehow never get round to visiting again.

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Yards of haystacks

Haystacks — the old beehive kind, not the modern giant wine bottle cork ones. And as for yards… well yards of painted canvas spread over a significant number of paintings. Makes me wonder, why haystacks? Why did they become such popular subjects for painters as cute children and dreamy landscapes?

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Unique in so many ways

Yesterday in Scotland we watched in horror the images on our TVs, computers and phones showing Glasgow School of Art being swallowed by flames.

A number of years ago, my husband and I visited the art school, previously only admired from the outside. It’s difficult to describe the interior of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building; iconic is overused, yet it’s the only word I can find to describe a design that was both Scottish and European, distinctive yet with a modern edge even today.

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Colours — as important as words

A month ago a man of colour faded from existence at the age of 91, a bit like his velvet ribbons above . The man was a textile designer, born in Serbia, educated in Czechoslovakia and Israel, intrigued and influenced by the pointillism of Seurat. Bernat Klein became one of Britain’s most famous designers in the 1960s, and the toast of Paris when top fashion houses such as Chanel, Dior, Cardin, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent embraced with enthusiasm his vibrantly coloured mohair and velvet tweeds.

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