Notes from the Basement, 14 September 2022

  14 Sep '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn

As we continue in this quiet, reflective period we are all – as individuals – starting to take in the enormity of change across the board that is now impacting on our lives… the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a new monarch and the changes that this will bring, the change in Prime Minister, environmental change, war in Europe, the cost-of-living crisis. It is all too easy to become overwhelmed. But do remember that, in the words of Precious Ramotswe, ‘Cheerful people live longer than miserable people. People who laughed were less likely to suffer from all sorts of complaints… And allowing yourself the occasional treat made you feel better and ultimately healthier’.

From his ongoing tour in Canada, Alexander McCall Smith gave his voice on the subject of loss and change in a poem written to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth. This was carried on the front page of the Sunday Times and you can read it in full here on our website or on his own website, where there is also a recording of a reading of the poem. This has now been heard in many different countries.

A number of our authors have been involved in media commentaries over the last few days. Alistair Moffat, known with great affection in Scotland as ‘the people’s historian’ and ‘the scholarly hiker’, author of the much anticipated Islands of the Evening, was asked by BBC Today Programme to put the procession along the Royal Mile into historical context. He went on to do the same for the BBC in Scotland, Wales and far beyond.

Closer to home, online we have been looking at Holyrood Palace through the eyes of Rosemary Goring, author of the new book, Homecoming: The Scottish Years of Mary Queen of Scots: ‘Holyrood Palace, where she encountered her Parliament, and allies and foes alike, culminating in the murder of her dear friend David Rizzio . . .’ Read an extract from Homecoming here.

Illustrators too have helped us to remember The Queen. Andrew Crummy, artist behind The Great Tapestry of Scotland, gave permission for his illustration of Her Majesty – stitched by a group of quite wonderful volunteers, the Musselburgh Stitchers, to be included on our website and social platforms.

Author Ian Williams gave the world an insight into Her Majesty’s understanding of Xi Jinping, in an article in The Times, ‘When Xi Jinping sent his condolences on Friday, the palace could be forgiven a wry smile. For while the Queen usually kept her opinions to herself, she was not nearly as discreet about China’s communist leaders. . .Read more on The Times website (paywall).

We were touched too, when the Daily Mail ran an extract from The Final Curtsey by the first cousin to the Queen, the late Margaret Rhodes.  

Whether your outlook is republican or monarchist, this is a significant moment in our nation’s story. We are grateful to all our authors who have given of their time and allowed us to share their writing over the last week. Their voices have been informative and calming.

Need to lift the mood? Events are starting to return and Bloody Scotland, a major Scottish International Crime Writing Festival, will go ahead this weekend. Based in Stirling, this festival has brought hundreds of crime writers, new and established, to the stage with always enthusiastic attendees. You can catch our authors on the following days:

You can browse the full programme of events for Bloody Scotland here

Dark Hunter author Fiona Watson will also be appearing at another event this month, on Saturday 17 Sep at 10:30 at The Pagoda, Grantown-On-Spey as part of The Bookmark book shop’s Scottish Historical Festival.

Tomorrow, you can also head down to The Mainstreet Trading Company to catch Rosemary Goring talking about her fascinating new book on Scotland’s most iconic queen. Get your tickets here!

And finally, a note of thanks to The Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s Body Guard in Scotland, who rose to the many challenges this week with great dignity and continue to participate in the vigil in London.

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