Notes from the Basement – 30 March 2021

  30 Mar '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn
Tuesday, March 30th, 2021
Welcome back to the world! On Friday, Scotland joins the rest of the country and ‘stay at home’ moves to ‘stay local’ – so grab your tote, your sunnies, your book and head to a local park (or the garden) and catch up on your reading.

‘A chilling reminder to all who believe in the rule of law and an open society of China’s present threats to our way of life’– That is how Chris Patten describes Ian Williams’ Every Breath You Take: China’s New Tyranny, published on Thursday of this week. An incredibly important book, Ian takes a detailed look at the world’s first digital totalitarian state. Order your copy now.

In the midst of Holy Week, our poem to share is Edwin Morgan’s Pilate at Fortingall from Take Heart, edited by Ali Smith.

‘Even though it is my firm belief that our deaths are final… I could not explain why my night of solitude had affected me so strangely, even deeply’ – Alistair Moffat is a man who takes his research seriously. He spent a weekend on retreat on Iona, travelling in the footsteps of St Columba for In Search of Angels. Here are his moving reflections upon waking on the beach.

March is a long but transformative month. We’ve seized its five Tuesdays and turned them into perfect opportunities to celebrate Women’s History Month.
Read the final instalment in our series of extracts from Rosemary Goring’s Scotland: Her Story here.

Helen McClory’s much-anticipated novel, Bitterhall launches this week and it won’t disappoint. The Daily Mail called it ‘ghostly, shape-shifting, a novel playfully alert to ideas of authenticity, possession and the malleable nature of narrative’. The Herald hailed its ‘snatched, impressionistic chapters [which] can switch between personal reflection and prose poetry – an elegant style which only gains in effectiveness as the haunted, gothic undercurrent of the novel becomes more apparent’. Helen is in conversation with Eris Young at Thursday’s online launch event hosted by Edinburgh’s Lighthouse Books. Sign-up here.

Oooh… Roseanne Watt’s Moder Dy is a staff pick in the Paris Review this week. They call it ‘an incredible work of poetics, social history, and translation… all happening before our eyes.’ What impeccable taste they have.

Sunday morning constitutionals along the Water of Leith walkway always reveal seasonal delights. This week Spring was signalled by the distinctive smell of wild garlic. The pervasive plants cover the riverbank but by next weekend they will have been gathered by foragers and be gone. If you have been lucky enough to collect some, add it – for a mellow touch – to the delicious Forager’s Frittata in The Scottish Brunch Bible from Ghillie Basan. Serve warm.

Treating the household to Easter Brunch? Ghillie provides more inspiration in this video prepared to celebrate the launch of The Scottish Brunch Bible. Our favourite? Smoky bacon, black pudding and hot hummus!

And, to mark Earth Hour 2021, our own Alexander McCall Smith wrote a poem about Climate Change for environmental charity WWF Scotland. It will form part of a virtual exhibition, The Great Scottish Canvas, hosted by the charity later this year.

There will be no newsletter on Good Friday or Tuesday 6 April. So until we re-emerge… have a splendid Easter break!

Or in the words of Jack Kerouac, ‘a tender adieu’.

Team Birlinn
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