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Birlinn Books – Notes from the Basement, December 21st, 2020

  21 Dec '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn
It’s the winter solstice, called by a poet ‘the year’s midnight’, and our final newsletter of the year comes just a few hours before the hour strikes. We hope that Christmas brings you quiet, peace and merriment. Here are some readings to feast on from now until Twelfth Night.

Andrew Greig’s poem ‘Towards the end of the feast’ is the Poem of the Week in the Guardian. The tale of a Christmas-dinner calamity, it is dramatic, wistful and full of love. Carol Rumens’ close readings for this weekly column are things of beauty. Read it here.

Christmas Day 2020 is the 70th anniversary of Ian Hamilton’s daring snaffling of the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey. He spoke to the Sunday Times about it at the weekend, but you can read more about that on our site, too.

Hogmanay sees the Young Pretender at 300. Bonnie Prince Charlie was born on 31st December 1720 and Michael Nevin’s Reminiscences of a Jacobite brings him closer than ever before. Here’s Michael’s story of BPC memorabilia.

We were delighted to see Stuart Cosgrove’s Cassius X receive beautiful words in the TLS this week [£] ‘Music and boxing move symbiotically throughout the book, the singers and boxers summoning mysterious powers to reach ineffable heights as they stand alone under the lights’ – the story begins on a prickly, sweaty New Year’s Day in Miami. This extract will get your year off to a bracing start.

And take a look at Scotland on Sunday Sports books of the Year, with no fewer than FOUR of our gorgeous books getting a mention.

In a completely different start to 2021, Merryn Glover has a short story broadcasting on Radio 4 at 3.45pm. It’s about numbers and rituals, as a mathematician talks to a young visitor.  Merryn, whose Cairngorms-set novel Of Stone and Sky is coming in April also has a piece in the Guardian’s Country Diary on December 23rd about Nan Shepherd and those mountains.

That poet who wrote about the ‘year’s midnight’? That was John Donne, but I learned the phrase through Liz Lochhead’s brilliant poetry. Here she is again, with a poem about bargain hunting in January.

Finally, the traditional food for Twelfth Night is Black Bun, available in all good Scottish bakers, or in Sue Lawrence’s recipe.

As the year draws to a close we will all be focussed on getting through the next few tough weeks but at the same time looking further into 2021 for a new, and happier ‘normal’.  2020 has certainly been a time for face-masks and physical distancing but for many, a time too of renewed social bonding and for the Birlinn team a time when we have felt more connected with readers, writers, librarians, booksellers, printers, bloggers and festivals than we have for many a year. We have all been finding our way, relying on each other and pushing forward. And we will look back on this year with gratitude for the support of the wider book family to which we all belong. In the last few days before Christmas we are thinking of you all and wishing you a happy, safe and warm time. We’ll see you on the other side of the year.

Happy Christmas – from all at Birlinn
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