Scottish road trip 2007, day two – Battles and burial grounds

After a hearty full Scottish breakfast (thanks Janice), we were well fuelled for a day exploring the Trossachs. Our first stop was the Falls of Falloch a rather spectacular waterfall that runs into Loch Lomond and a chance to enjoy a short walk through the woods.

Arty long exposure shots of the falls completed, we jumped back in the car and made our way to Killin, a pretty little village near Loch Tay, with its own water feature – the Falls of Dochart.

Killin is associated with the legendary Celtic Hero Fingal who, it is thought was buried here – ‘Cill Fhinn’ meaning the burial place of Fingal. It was certainly the site of many clan battles between the MacNabs and the Campbells.

We enjoyed a Sunday morning stroll around its sights and a browse around its well-stocked outdoor shop before heading onto Callandar.  

Scottish road trip 2007 – Heading North

After picking up our hire car and the inlaws we headed north, past the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond to Arrochar. We spent most of the day travelling, but with fine weather and sunshine and the prospect of a week’s worth of exploring and eating to look forward to, the miles passed quickly.

Our stop for the next two nights was the excellent Burnbrae B&B – a real home from home full of thoughtful little touches, spacious rooms and the best breakfasts of the whole trip.  With views over the crystal clear waters of the loch to the mountains, it was an excellent spot to wind down in.  

Zoli by Colum McCann

So I haven’t really been keeping up with my reading list. You knew I wouldn’t, didn’t you?

Anyway, the last book I read was Zoli by Colum McCann. This really caught my eye in the book shop because of its attractive cover illustration by Petra Borner, and also because I’ve previously read and enjoyed This Side of Brightness by the same author.

According to the blurb on the back it’s based loosely on the true story of a Gypsy poet and it’s set in and around Slovakia during the Second World War. 

The Gypsy world is depicted in great detail and the book really comes to life when it focuses on the community and characters. It falls into sharp contrast against the deprivation of the bleak landscape. This is also a story about love and loss, told from different points of view as Zoli’s lover pursues her across Eastern Europe.

Colum McCann is a wonderful writer, full of intelligence. But for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I failed to really connect with this book. Zoli remained fleeting and distant, just out of my reach. 

The Penelopiad – a review

I was lucky enough to get tickets to see The Royal Shakepeare Company’s production of The Penelopiad at the Northern Stage in Newcastle recently. It was a wonderful production that reminded me yet again of how much I enjoy live entertainment, be it music or theatre. And I don’t make the effort to go often enough.

Anyhow, here’s my review:

A contemporary twist on an ancient tale sees Penelope, traditionally the model of wifely devotion and patience, tell the story of her famous husband Odysseus in this production from the Royal Shakespeare Company.

From the moment we’re plunged into the depths of Hades, accompanied by the bark and snarl of its three-headed guardian and the slow drip, drip of the Lethe, this production draws its audience into a world of myth and story.

As Penelope, Penny Downie commands the centre stage, twisting and turning her tale through sorrow and sarcasm, scheming and silence; always keenly aware that our preconceived ideas are just one interpretation of the story.

Her dramatic monologues are mixed with songs and whispers from the tragi-comic chorus of 12 slave girls.

As this is an all female cast, they morph seamlessly between their roles as maids and the men who abuse them with subtle and effective use of movement and body language.

At one end of the scale we have Debhle Crotty who displays a brutal strength and cruelty as Antinous. At the other, Sarah Malin who demonstrates a touchingly believable sensuality as Odysseus.

This is also the story of those who never before had a voice, a face – barely even a name. The maids who keep Penelope company during the long years of her husband’s voyage and fend off her loutish suitors are murdered in a simple, dramatic and brutal climax.

A beautifully conceived production, deceptively simple in its staging that makes deft use of sound, lighting and movement, and lends itself beautifully to this theatre-in-the-round setting.

Its passionate, beating heart remains Penelope herself, vibrant even in death, a defiant, clever and cunning weaver of tales and destinies.

[Review also published on BBC Tyne]