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Notes from the Basement – 13 April 2021

  13 Apr '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn
Tuesday, April 13th, 2021
Helen McClory has been lighting up the airwaves with her distinctive writing: Janice Forsyth noted the ‘enjoyment factor’ of new novel Bitterhall on BBC Radio Scotland’s Afternoon Show yesterday. | [BBC Sounds]

And her story ‘Greenlaw’, about strange happenings on a new estate built on Edinburgh’s green belt, kicked off Radio 4’s ‘Enchanted Isle’ series last weekend. | [Radio 4]

Ian Williams’ essential book about China, Every Breath You Take, was a pick on Reaction.org, where they call it ‘an accessible, valuable, troubling, timely book’. | [Reaction]

Williams had strong words on the UK’s China policy in The Sunday Times. Johnson’s mixed policy of challenging human rights abuses while continuing to extend the economic relationship ‘fundamentally misunderstands the ways China exercises coercion…It is impossible to separate political ugliness from trade and investment, where Britain should be reducing dependence. Johnson needs to recognise that the worst way of dealing with bullies is to appease them.’ | [Sunday Times, £] 

Have you ever thought about the origin of the Scottish surname Fleming? It’s hidden in very plain sight. Billy Kay’s been on the case, with his documentary Scotland and the Low Countries. Our book, Scotland and the Flemish People might be a clue, too. | [BBC TV]

Margaret Rhodes was a bridesmaid at her cousin Princess Elizabeth’s wedding to Prince Philip in 1947. In her memoir, The Final Curtsey, she recalls the big day and the excited note she received from the future queen from the honeymoon: ‘I am enjoying being married to the best and nicest man in the world.’

It’s 25 years today since George Mackay Brown died in Orkney, but this week’s poem is about beginnings and setting out. ‘A New Child: ECL’, beautifully captures the essence of a life’s journey.

There’s a double helping of Andrew Painting in the new issue of BBC Countryfile magazine: a feature almost as extensive as the Cairngorm National Park, and a cracking review of Regeneration. They say, ‘The tone is companionable, humorous and buoyant. …when I next visit the Cairngorms, I’ll do so with a deeper understanding and appreciation of its beauty.’

Turning to another side of Scotland’s wild places, WalkHighlands has Patrick Baker’s story of the building of the Blackwater Dam. The Unremembered Places is now available in paperback. | [WalkHighlands.co.uk]

And now, some fluffy fun with very sharp teeth attached. Polly Pullar’s A Richness of Martens is out in paperback and you can read her first encounter with these fascinating and photogenic creatures here.

The Dundee Courier is serialising the first instalment of Angus MacDonald’s series Ardnish Was Home daily. This is a sweeping WWI novel bursting with danger, romance and love of the West Highlands. Pick up a paper!

Glasgow’s book festival Aye Write has announced its online programme: one of the highlights will be Kate Adie in conversation with Jim Swire, whose book The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father’s Search for Justice is out in May. | [Herald]

And finally, French toast doesn’t have to be sugar overload. Here’s a delicious savoury version, from Ghillie Basan’s brand new Scottish Brunch Bible.

Keep that spring in your step,
Team Birlinn
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