A Kinrowan Estate story: Thank You! ( A Letter to Anna)

Dear Anna,

Katrina and I enjoyed our visit in Stockholm with you over the last fortnight. We hadn’t enjoyed the wonders of Stockholm since we were there nearly a decade back as it’s hard to get away for enough time to really enjoy a vacation.

The accommodations you found for us at the Stureparkens Hotel in Gästvåning was perfect as it was, as you promised, small enough to feel cozy down to the communal kitchen! It was perfect for us to have a late night snack and featured a decent selection of rather good breakfast foods. Katrina said it really felt more like the hostels she stayed in during her student busking adventures.

She’s ecstatic about how well the Leaf & Tree concerts went for them. Your publicity efforts were stellar at filling the intimate venues they played. I’m always surprised how superb Medieval music is when played by a trio of a gamba, violin, and llefarydd, my favorite type of Welsh bagpipes! The audiences were very appreciative of their programme of all Welsh tunes followed by an extended encore of Swedish waltzes.

I’m very pleased with the coverage Angus provided for me while I was away. Takes after his grandfather rather well. Time to see if I can get Ingrid, our Steward, to raise his salary as he and his new wife have a wee bairn on the way come summer.

Until next time, Gus

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Thank You! ( A Letter to Anna)

What’s New for the 12th of May: Another Thirteenth Doctor Figure, A Tanya Huff trilogy, Recordings by Molly Mason & Jay Ungar, A Conversation with Charles de Lint, Lots of Chocolate, ‘Saturday in the Park’ by Chicago and Other Tasty Matters

Chocolate. The food of the gods, as my grandma used to call it. And I totally agree. It’s the answer to prayers. Emotional relief. A form of currency. An aphrodisiac. Raw and dark. White and saccharine. Milky sweet. Mouthwatering. It’s all good; I don’t discriminate. ― K.K. Allen

The Kitchen here decided to do dishes that all had chocolate in them, such as a traditional Chinese steamed bun with dark-chocolate ganache and ginger. OK not so traditional after all. And the dark chocolate waffles served with dark chocolate ice cream and chocolate whipped cream seemed like overkill but were rather delicious.

Now I thought the twice roasted chicken with chocolate mole sauce and poblano chilies was quite wonderful. Bjorn, our Brewmaster, did a killer chocolate stout that I managed to tuck away some of for later drinking, and the Mozart Black and Sabra liqueurs made for interesting drinking as well. Particularly in coffee the next morning.

I’m sure there’s something of a food nature in this Edition though I’m not sure what, so that’s up to you to discover. (The Several Annies, our Libraian’s Apprentices, actually edited this edition.) Myself I’m off to the Kitchen as I’m feeling a bit peckish…

Not everything in this section is a book review, so what have for you first is a conversation with Charles de Lint held at the FaerieWorld Convention in 2013. You can hear the delightful conversation here. And we’ve also updated our edition devoted to him and his works with a guest appearance by MaryAnn Harris, his wife. That can be found thisaway.

Craig says that ‘Michael Streissguth’s Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: The Making of a Masterpiece doesn’t aspire to much higher than providing indepth coverage of a seminal moment, both in the career of Johnny Cash, and in music history in general. Despite its flaws, it does this job fully and; therefore, remains a must-have for Cash aficionados and music historians.’

Irene says of a slender volume by Dorothy Sayers on a subject dear to many of us: ‘These essays, as well as a transcription of an original radio play featuring a young Peter Death Bredon Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes, are reprinted in the slim volume by The Mythopoeic Press entitled Sayers on Holmes: Essays and Fiction on Sherlock Holmes. The essays are lovely examples of canonical scholarship and show Sayers’ skill as a detective and a scholar (for what is a true research scholar but a detective) as well as her undoubted skill as an entertaining author.’

Robert has a look at a trilogy by Tanya Huff, The Smoke Trilogy, newly reissued in an omnibus edition: ‘One thing that I find marginally irritating about some of my favorite fantasy and science fiction writers is that if I don’t pay attention for a minute or two, they start a new series and then I have to catch up with them. Tanya Huff, for example, one of those protean writers who seems to be able to write in any subgenre, from “classic” fantasy to military sf to supernatural thrillers, and do it well, started a new series while I wasn’t looking. So I went back and caught up.’

Robert has a look another superhero film featuring a character who is, to say the least, unusual: ‘Another coupon, another DVD. This time it was The Amazing Spider-Man at half price. Another one of those films I’d heard of but didn’t really know much about, except that 1) it’s about Spider-Man, a character who has started to intrigue me, and 2) superhero. (Note: I haven’t started really digging into Spider-Man yet, so I’m not going to comment on the success of this as a reboot.)’

Look, more chocolate! These are just a sample of the many, many chocolate related reviews we’ve done.

Gary really seems to have enjoyed a chocolate bar made from single-origin beans by a company based in Eureka, Calif. From his review, it sounds like a multi-media experience. ‘The bar is beautifully decorated in an incised pattern that resembles Islamic geometric tesserae.’

A boozy chocolate trifle is the recipe for Jen: ‘This dessert is highly alcoholic. And huge: the finished recipe weighs about 8 pounds, not counting the heavy glass trifle bowl, without which it really isn’t worth doing. I developed it after reading, yes, way too many English novels and wondering how to make it with chocolate.’

And Robert has another tasty treat from Lindt chocolatiers: Lindt’s Excellence Dark Chocolate with Caramel and Sea Salt: ‘We are no strangers here to Lindt chocolates, and it’s generally a happy association — on our part, at least. The latest example of Lindt’s chocolates to cross my desk is a new flavor in their “Excellence” line — dark chocolate with caramel and sea salt.’

Jasmine, with a certain amount of puzzlement, says, ‘When I started reading Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch, I had already entered into the story by listening to the radio play. I thought that I might gain additional insight into the family events which lurk and jump out at one in the course of the narrator’s story. What I found was exactly the same impenetrable mystery which informs the radio version.’

Brendan looks at Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Harvest Home: Music For All Seasons: ‘This is an amazing CD that manages not only to pay tribute to the rural style of life but the entire field of American traditional music as well. Ungar and Mason have created a unique blend of orchestral and folk music that manages to preserve the integrity of each style while enhancing each other.’

Our Editor Cat finds balm for the soul in The Quiet Room, a new release from Americana duo Jay Ungar & Molly Mason. The album, which came out of a time of personal hardship, contains both new material and some of the best of their extensive back-catalog. ‘Everything here, new and old, I hope will delight you as much as it does me,’ Cat says.

Gary looks at another album from them: ‘Jay Ungar and Molly Mason are best known for their waltz, “The Ashokan Farewell,” which became the centerpiece tune of the Ken Burns/PBS documentary about the American Civil War. They’re more than a one-trick pony, though, as they demonstrate on Relax Your Mind, in which they team up with the acoustic jazz combo Swingology. Together, they’ve recorded an album of laid-back western swing and swing-influenced dance music that hits all the right notes.’

Denise looks at a figurine inspired by the 13th Doctor, TITANS’ 6.5” ‘Twice Upon A Time’ 13th Doctor Kawaii.I love this little figurine. I figured I’d think it was cute, shrug, and tap out something that’d sound nice but not really have any true feeling one way or the other. But dang y’all. This one’s a keeper.’

‘Saturday in the Park’ is my choice this week for our music coda. It’s by Chicago, the not quite rock band. If you were around in ‘72, you no doubt heard the song playing in heavy rotation on pretty much every FM and AM radio station. The song was written by Robert Lamm and recorded by the group for their album Chicago V. It’s upbeat song, suitable for a warm day as it is today. I can’t tell you where or when it was recorded as the database for the Infinite Jukebox has absolutely nothing on it.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 12th of May: Another Thirteenth Doctor Figure, A Tanya Huff trilogy, Recordings by Molly Mason & Jay Ungar, A Conversation with Charles de Lint, Lots of Chocolate, ‘Saturday in the Park’ by Chicago and Other Tasty Matters

What’s New for the 5th of May: It’s Spring, Beatrix Potter’s Garden, Time Travel, Candy, Jazz, and more

None of us know for sure what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Keep your faith. Travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you, constantly. — Thirteenth Doctor in ‘The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos’

Can you smell it? No, not the Turkish coffee I’m drinking, which is earthy and most excellent. That other earthy smell. That’s spring here. Windows are open, everyone’s rambling around this old estate looking at the plants coming up, and I’ve even overheard more than one couple contemplating doing the two-backed beast in Oberon’s Wood when it gets just a bit warmer.

And there’re always contradances going on here — what better way to check out a new partner? After all, G B Shaw once said ‘dancing is the vertical expression of the horizontal desire.’  So there’ll be a dance tonight in the Courtyard with Chasing Fireflies which is currently myself on concertina, Béla on violin, and a lovely smallpiper-lass named Finch. It’s a truly sweet sound and you’ll want to step lively if you’re here. 

Andrea looks at an Appalachian set tale for you: ‘Ghost Rider is the latest novel in Sharyn McCrumb’s “Ballad Series.” Ghost Riders is different from the others in the series in that there is no mystery (in the “mystery novel” sense of the word) to be solved. In the other books, the storyline goes back and forth between past and present, the stories linked sometimes obviously and sometimes tenuously. Usually in the “modern” story there is a mystery which the story in the past fleshes out or provides with a new insight. In Ghost Riders there are two separate tales from the past and a storyline set in the present. The narratives set in the past are linked by a chance meeting but still remain separate tales. One of these stories has a direct influence on the present. There are various characters, past and present, whose lives intertwine briefly in interesting and occasionally surprising ways.’

It being being Sping, Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life was a work much liked by Gus: ‘Like many serious gardeners, I collect books about gardens and those who created them. This one is a recent acquisition of mine that ranks among the best I’ve encountered! Subtitled ‘The plants and places that inspired the classic children’s tales’, it is just what it says it is: a look at the gardens (and botanical things) that inspired her children’s writings.’

Marian looks at a trilogy by Jane Yolen that deserves to be a classic. First up is ‘The Books of Great Alta which is the compilation of Yolen’s two books in the series,  Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna. It is the story of the women of Dale, who worship Great Alta, the mother goddess and what happens to them for better or worse.’ If you’ve read these already, then do read Marian’s review of  the final volume, The One-Armed Queen, but otherwise do not as it has major spoilers about what happens in the first two novels.

Warner says ‘The Gates of Stone is Angus Macallan’s first novel, and also the first book in the “Lord of the Islands” series. A first novel is a hard sell for many; this one also promises that it is a part of a coming series. For any series, the question of engaging the reader with the world and characters from the beginning paramount.’

Robert went out to see the new Marvel Comics film, and had a mixed reaction: ‘In spite of my reservations about the Avengers films (to be honest, aside from the first one, I haven’t found them all that satisfying), I decided to see Avengers: Endgame. It’s a lot more complex than I had expected, offering a deeper examination of character and psychology than one might expect from a “comic book” movie, and I’m not sure just how successful it is.’

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! But if you’re full up on Tex-Mex and don’t want to look another nacho in the face, Denise is here with some beer and candy for you. First, she looks at Orchard Valley Harvest’s Sweetened Cherries in Dark Chocolate. ‘My only issue is the chocolate coating, with tends to crumble if you try to make each cherry a two-bite treat.’ But is it worth a try? Only reading her review will give you the full story.

Next is a look at McKeever & Danlee Confectionery Co.’s Liquorice Allsorts, Australian black licorice. ‘Think of this licorice as training wheel bits for the really hardcore European stuff. That said, they’re perfect with a cup of tea, or perhaps a glass of champagne if you’re feeling fancy. (Hint: I’m always feeling fancy.)’

And how about something to wash that candy down? Victory Brewing Company’s Storm King Imperial Stout, perhaps? ‘King ain’t one of those sweet stouts, people. It’s bitter, strong, and proud.’ Not sure if you’re ready to let your taste buds walk on the wild side? Then read her review for more info!

Brian K. Vaughan’s The Escapists is a graphic novel that comes with a warning from April: ‘The Escapist is an original comic creation springing from Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And though it’s not at all necessary to have read that marvelous novel to enjoy The Escapists, readers should, because this graphic novel takes both its heart and inspiration from Chabon’s work.’ Read her full review to see why she liked this.

Our West Coast Cat has this to say about Rupa and the April Fish’s Growing Up: ‘It’s a complicated, layered, beautiful piece that is hopeful and fierce all at once, exercising that loving kindness and radical tenderness on the listener and challenging them to follow suit.’

Gary reviews the latest from the prolific musician Stephan Micus, a true solo effort. ‘On White Night, his 23rd solo album for ECM, Micus unleashes his visionary creativity to take his listeners on a journey through his imagined world, illuminated by the full moon and with a soundtrack out of his sublime dreams.’

For something completely different, Gary reviews a country-western record called O Bronder, Donder Yonder? ‘Forrest Van Tuyl, who performs as An American Forrest, is a young cowboy poet and horse wrangler from northeastern Oregon who slings archaic lingo around like flapjacks.’

Finally, Gary reviews Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. It’s a five-disc box set from Smithsonian Folkways, documenting 50 years of the Crescent City’s signature cultural festival. ‘I can’t imagine anybody with a speck of soul who won’t absolutely dig this beautiful box set,’ he says.

Our What Not this time is sort of about Jane Austen, who was an devoted dancer. Extended scenes set in the ballroom are intrinsic aspects of all of her novels. Alison Thompson, noted musician, dancer and writer, wrote an article called ‘The Felicities of Rapid Motion; Jane Austen in the Ballroom’ which was printed in Persuasions, Winter 2000. That’s the online journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

We’ve got these reviews of other works by her, Dancing Through Time subtitled Western Social Dance in Literature, 1400-1918, Lighting the Fire: Elsie J. Oxenham, The Abbey Girls, and the English Folk Dance Revival and The Blind Harper Dances: Modern English Country Dances which is set  to airs by Turlough O’Carolan.

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to what I like for music which is why the playlist here in the Pub when the Neverending Session isn’t, errr, in session leans heavily towards Celtic trad music. So it will surprise you that my selection for parting music today isn’t of that manner but rather it something a bit more modern, to wit ‘The Cuckoo’s Nest’ by De Dannan, recorded at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio, in 1982. Well, as if something composed in the 1920s by John J. Kimmel is to considered modern…

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 5th of May: It’s Spring, Beatrix Potter’s Garden, Time Travel, Candy, Jazz, and more

A Kinrowan Estate story: The Oysterband

The Old Man here — Indeed it’s cold and wet outside, not ‘tall good for a long walk today, so I’m mucking about the database for the Infinite Jukebox here. Now, some might think it is indeed more than a bit queer that the Infinite Jukebox contains recordings of performers beyond count — but it is, after all, the Infinite Jukebox. I found a version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Let It Bleed’ with Marianne Faithfull fronting, as her boyfriend had overdosed all those years ago. I also loved the other female fronted rock and roll I listened to this morning — ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles, with Linda Ronstadt as the lead vocalist! Cool, really cool.

However, I was searching the Infinite Jukebox because I fondly remembered an Oyster Band album called English Rock and Roll — The Early Years. Yes, Oyster Band, not Oysterband. The band started life some thirty years ago as Fiddler’s Dram, later becoming the Oyster Ceilidh Band and eventually dropping the Ceilidh part of their name. As the name suggests, much of their music is bloody fine dance tunes which I really like on days like today!

If you are a fan of the present-day Oysterband, their rather sedate earlier sound might surprise you. Especially when compared to the band’s angry tone during the Thatcher years, when they would sing in ‘The shouting end of life’ that ‘Hacks that want to see me shuffle off the shelf / I hand them each a bottle, I say — Go fuck yourself!’ No, this is a far quieter, more traditional band that aficionados of good electrified English folk music will love, as almost everything, unlike later albums, is traditional material — only ‘A Longport Hymn’ (written by Alan Prosser) and the ‘Holligrave’ tune (written by Ian Kearey) are contemporary in composition. Oh, John Jones’ lovely voice is here, as is the voice of the soon-to-depart Cathy Lesurf of later Albion Band fame.

Indeed it has the aspects of the later band, but it feels much different than they do a decade or so later. Listening to it play in my office as it rains outside, I’m reminded of a time before Thatcher. Bloody bitch that she was, she made folk music political as a reaction against her evil reign. Here is a more innocent, pre-Thatcher Oysterband, one where saying ‘Go fuck yourself!’ would have been unthinkable. I miss that time, that sense of innocence. As the years pass, I find myself less interested in electrified English folk than I was when it started out some forty years ago. I want to be cheered up, not depressed!

Now let’s listen in as the ever so perfect tenor voice of John Jones sings the lyrics of ‘The Prentice Boy,’ a Cheshire folk song about a cobbler’s boy who runs away to join the Spanish army. And yes, do help yourself to a bottle or two of the rather good ale I found in the Pub this afternoon!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: The Oysterband

What’s New for the 28th of April: Folklore in the Twentieth Century, Russian Music, Real Fairy Tales, Swedish Pan Pipes, and more

April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain. — T.S. Eliot

I spent some time in Southeast Asia many years ago working for the British Consulate there, and so acquired a taste for the food served there. Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff blessed me this morning with a repast worthy of being called magnificent — sunny side eggs done up in the Thai style, both pork and shrimp dumplings pan fried of course, fried Thai donuts, and a mug of tea  with a generous lashing of cream. They amazingly even got me a day old copy of the English language Bangkok Post to read with it. Not sure how they did that, but I’m certain there’s a favour in the asking for later.

Now here’s our Edition…

Deborah gives us a glimpse of fairy tales by Neil Gaiman, in M is for Magic: ‘There is a child who burns with curiosity, who is full of the Wood. He knows there are scary things in the world, and amazing things too. This child understands that trolls still lurk under bridges and she knows that magical things can be found in the most ordinary of places. She knows that she should be careful in the world but that she shouldn’t let that keep her at home. He realizes that the categorically scary can be oddly comforting and that the impenetrably beautiful can often times be terrifying indeed. And yet this is all to say there’s a child who’s every child.’

Faith brings us a bit of gothic horror by way of Douglas Clegg’s Isis: ‘Have you ever read “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs? It’s a nasty little story that proves quite graphically that bringing the dead back to life, no matter what the motive, is a horrible idea and not for amateurs. Although its plotline is not identical, Isis nicely illustrates the same thing.’

Robert has a look at a book for anyone with an interest in folklore and its place in the arts: ‘While the authors of Re-Situating Folklore are concerned largely with the relationship between folklore and literature, what they describe is something that happens across the spectrum of “high art” and the vernacular: folklore, or the vernacular (which is the ultimate origin of folklore), in its forms or content, is adopted as high art, while reciprocally, literary or artistic works work their way into folk or pop culture.’

Robert bought the DVD for an X-Men spinoff that was pretty impressive: The Wolverine: ‘It should come as no surprise that I saw The Wolverine when it came out. I was impressed enough that I bought the DVD when that came out. (Another coupon – I try to avoid paying full price for anything.) Yes, it was worth it.’

Garth Ennis’ Midnighter: Killing Machine got an ambivalent reaction from Robert: ‘I have to confess to some ambivalence toward Midnighter: Killing Machine, the first collection of the eponymous series on the character introduced in Stormwatch and who continued as part of the Authority in the Wildstorm universe. I think that ambivalence will be apparent as you read through this commentary.’

Chris got tickets to Martin Barre’s concert of “greatest hits” from Jethro Tull: ‘Martin Barre, who for more than four decades was the guitarist of legendary rock band Jethro Tull, is celebrating the band’s fiftieth anniversary this year with a greatest hits show that delves into the band’s deep, wonderful catalog. . . . The show I saw at the Iridium in New York on April 25 featured reworked versions of songs spanning much of the band’s career, and was in every way worthy of Tull’s long history.’

Lars has a look at a rather unusual mix of traditions in Alban & Josué’s Polska på Pan: ‘
f you are the least interested in Swedish traditional music, keyed fiddles, Indian flute music, or just crosses between different musical cultures, you should well consider giving some of your listening time to this. It is an excellent example of what can be achieved if one is firmly rooted in a tradition but daring enough to expand the boundaries of that tradition.’

Robert looks at a pair of recordings of music by twentieth-century Russian masters, performed by twentieth-century legends, including none other than Van Cliburn and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: ‘Music by Russian composers in the twentieth century presents some interesting contrasts, not only between those who remained in the Soviet Union after the 1917 Revolution, such as Dmitri Shostakovich, but also among the expatriates, such as, in this case, the composers I have been calling over the past few days “The Two Sergeis”: Sergei Rachmaninoff and Sergei Prokofiev.’

Our What Not this week is a convention. Denise says: ‘Washington DC’s Awesome Con was this weekend, and it was a chance to check out all sorts of entertainment-type things. But my personal favorites are the science-y type stuff at Future Con. Educational booths from the Smithsonian, NASA, National Geographic and many more sated wannabe science nerds like me with tales of robotics and biological research. But I think I enjoyed panels that combined genre fandoms and hard science, like The Science of Aquaman, Germ Warfare: A Very Graphic History (with special guest Max Brooks!), and Harry Potter and the Genetics of Wizarding. Who says you can’t have fun and learn something? Weekend well spent, and I’m already looking forward to next year.’

So how about some tasty pop from nearly forty years ago? ‘Come On Eileen’ is  from the Dexys Midnight Runners, a Birmingham pop band with soul influences founded by Kevin Rowland and Kevin Archer. The song was a success in large part because of heavy radio play and because of MTV airing its video in heavy rotation in ‘82, just four years after the band was formed. Our version is from Rockpalast, a German radio programme that apparently let everything it taped loose in the marketplace as soundboard recordings as I’ve seen amazing music productions ‘released’ by them. This was done on the 9th of April, the year after the song was officially released.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 28th of April: Folklore in the Twentieth Century, Russian Music, Real Fairy Tales, Swedish Pan Pipes, and more

A Kinrowan Estate story: Lost Empires

More Midnight Wine? A bit of smoked savannah slinker? Some snow-white strawberries from the other side of that Border? What tickles your fancy this fine morning?

I was eating a very late breakfast with a few other Green Man staffers after a late night of trading truths, half truths, and outright lies over a poker game a Jack — who had dropped by on his way to yet ‘nother adventure — had started when he walked into the Pub, when a stranger walked in and took a seat nearby. There was nothing unusual about him until over his second cup of Sumatra he said that he was the last King of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire . . . Who were we to disagree? What profit was there in doing that?

Mind you, he was dressed all in black with a smart cut to his slightly old-fashioned clothes and a haughty demeanor of one to the Manor born, but that said little to who he was, and we’ve heard far stranger statements made here by much odder looking individuals. Now I know that most historians claim that Charles I succeeded to the Austro-Hungarian throne during The First World War, and that he abdicated from it a short time later in 1918 when the Armistice took effect and the war ended with the surrender of the Central powers to the Allies. Historians further say he died five years later — a mortal lifetime ago. Our visitor, Karl by name, rejected that history with an angry shake of his head. Indeed Bela, our resident Balkan violinist, has also claimed for years that he was born in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire!

One of the poker players shrugged her shoulders — I think it was Zina who was playing on her fiddle a spritely set of tunes, ‘Never Wed a Hendrake Lass / Hangman’s Reel / Midsummer’s Night’ — and asked him to tell his story. So over the course of that morning, he told us tales of Empires lost and regained, of parties so lavish that vassal states were impoverished to keep the festivities going, of a lover who betrayed him for a handful of silver, of another lover who risked everything for him, of mad priests who couldn’t be killed, and many more tales.

He drained his tankard of Skull-buster Strine beer, picked up his walking cane, and said in his faintly accented English that it was time to catch a train back to His Imperial Capital. Bela bowed deeply to him as he turned toward the door, and that was the last we saw of him — but he left behind ‘nough stories for lifetimes…

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Lost Empires

What’s New for the 21st of April: A History of Tull, the Polesotechnic League, Chocolate Eggs, More Tull, Payback, and other neat stuff

She who invented words, and yet does not speak; she who brings dreams and visions, yet does not sleep; she who swallows the storm, yet knows nothing of rain or wind. I speak for her; I am her own.― Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden

So have you read The Orphan’s Tales? No? So think A Thousand and One Nights told from the viewpoint of I’d guess a teenage girl spiralling out to encompass myriad other storytellers telling their tales, all interconnected into one Story. Each Story piece is short, sometimes only a paragraph and certainly no more than a few pages at the most. Absolutely delicious to dip into for a few minutes or get lost for hours on end. I’ve got both of them here behind the Bar and have been known when the Pub is quiet to pull one of them out and read a narrative thread until I’m needed again.

Want a flavour of them? Well SJ Tucker recorded ‘The Girl in the Garden’ which is off her most excellent Sirens album which sets the premise up, and I think that there’s a short tale from them on the Infinite Jukebox… Yes there’s it is, ‘The Tale of The Tea Maker and The Shoe Maker’  so that should whet your appetite. Our reviews of the two volumes are here and over here.

Of course this Edition contains lots of other neat stuff for you as well from a history of Jethro Tull and music from the band too, YA from Kage Baker, Easter chocolate, bulldogs, baked eggs, Irish music, even stories from Poul Anderson. With that, I’ll take your leave for now.

Chuck has a book for you that’s very popular to take out from the Library here at Kinrowan Estate: ‘Ciaran Carson is an Irish poet and musician, who has, in Last Night’s Fun, put together a series of writings, each inspired by a traditional tune. In most cases, these are short essays. For others, he has written poetry or put together sets of quotations. Occasionally the subjects in consecutive chapters are directly related, but that is most likely happenstance.’

Kate has a look-see at Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001: ‘Scott Allen Nollen has proven his devotion as a Tull fan in the countless miles travelled and the hours passed collecting details and interviewing band members and other associates. He has included nostalgic pictures of the band, some of which were borrowed from Ian Anderson, the often frenzied flautist who, despite some controversy, became the Fagin-like front man for the band. After ten long years of research, here is a comprehensive and entertaining story of the much misunderstood Jethro Tull. The authenticity is underlined by the thoughtful and honest foreword written by Ian Anderson himself.’

Matthew looks at a Kage Baker venture into children’s fiction: ‘In comparison to her other works,’ says he, ‘I would consider The Hotel under the Sand to be one of Kage Baker’s lesser works, but it is still highly enjoyable.’

We have another first from Robert — well, sort of: A collection of stories from the late Poul Anderson: ‘At long last, someone has begun the monumental task of issuing the late Poul Anderson’s classic stories of the Polesotechnic League in internal chronological order. Hank Davis, who compiled this volume (there are three volumes in total), has expanded the timeline to include some League prehistory and the series is being called The Technic Civilization Saga. Anderson was one of the luminaries of the Golden Age of science fiction, and his stories of the League rank with Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy series and Heinlein’s Future History as landmarks in the field.’

Remember when you could eat anything? Under certain circumstances we all have the digestions of teenagers, even now. Such as when that April storm blows through, leaving the world coated in ice, every twig and windshield glittering in the ironical sun, and let me tell you, it’s not a good idea to pour the kettle on that windshield. It’ll shatter. But a baked egg can set you up to walk out into that slippery, glittering world, chip your windshield clear, maybe snap a few pix for Instagram, and know in your heart that Spring is on the way.

Denise dives into the holiday spirit with a look at Specially Selected’s Chocolate Truffle Eggs and Choceur’s Dark Chocolate Marzipan Mini Eggs. One she enjoyed, one she…tolerated. How to figure out which is which?  Well that’s easy; just read her reviews to see what you may want to include in your basket!

Big Earl says of Ånon that ‘Ånon Egeland is a master of the mighty hardanger fiddle (a violin with drone strings). As a collector of traditional songs from his area, Egeland is noted for keeping the traditions of the north alive. On this, his first solo album of his twenty-plus year career, he brings forth a beautiful collection of dances from Sweden and Norway, some learnt from the great masters of the idiom.’

Got a Tull fan on your Birthday shopping list? Oh does Chris have a suggestion for you: ‘Did I really need a box set of an album, when I already had an LP, cassette tape, and, as in the case of Aqualung, the 25th anniversary CD? However, I found myself tempted by Songs from the Wood, a personal favorite album of mine, and decided to take my chances with it, and the reissue of Heavy Horses. I wasn’t disappointed.’

‘You know it’s true love when a Swede compares you to coffee, right?’ That’s what Gary says about Wooh Dang, the new Americana release by Daniel Norgren.

Robert picked Tummel’s Payback Time as his recommended recording  this outing: ‘Think about the band playing on while the Titanic goes down. Think of some of Joel Gray’s bitchier numbers in Cabaret. Think of Josephine Baker at her most outrageous taking Paris by storm. Think of a bunch of crazy Swedes with no inhibitions whatsoever getting together and letting everyone have it, right between the eyes. That might give an inkling of the tone of Tummel’s Payback Time.’

With Spring officially sprung, more and more people are enjoying the out-of-doors. And many are doing that with a furry friend. Today, on National Bulldogs Are Beautiful Day, it bears mentioning that these stout little bringers of happiness come in many forms. From Frenchies to Olde English, Cataholula to Continental, there’s surely a bully pup or twelve that’ll make you swoon. You know they’re good for your heart, right? Check out these little bebbes, and enjoy a lovely bit of Bulldog time. That feels better now, doesn’t it?

I’m a Tull fan from days on old when Ian successfully bludgeoned rock and folk music into one art form. So I got thinking about what might be on the Infinite Jukebox and to my delight I discovered it had ‘The Hunting Girl’ in which boy meets girl on horse and they get down in the dirt for a good fucking. Even the lyrics make that clear (‘She took this simple man’s downfall in hand; I raised the flag that she unfurled) and Ian’s Flute playing adds a sexual urgency to the song. This version was recorded on the 12th of November, forty years ago at the LA Sports Arena.


Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 21st of April: A History of Tull, the Polesotechnic League, Chocolate Eggs, More Tull, Payback, and other neat stuff

A Kinrowan Estate Story: Writing Retreats (A Letter To Peter)

Dear Peter,

Here’s my thoughts on the history of writing retreats here

The first recorded one was in the Twenties, a small group of mystery writers, no one that anyone reads now, but who were all fairly well-known at that time. They stayed here for a few weeks, talked about their editors and how little the magazines were paying, drank well and ate even better. They wree very impressed with the collection of mystery works in our Library including a full run of Strand magazine.

A rather interesting writing group that met here off and on during the Second World War apparently was under the auspices of the War Office though we didn’t get told that until some fifty years later. We were told then that they were a group of historians and novelists, who were to develop deep covers for agents in Nazi occupied Europe.

When the yurts got built in the Sixties, we started getting groups here in the Summer that liked meeting outdoors. One of the odder groups was apparently devoted to writing Feminist versions of the Arthurian mythos. Now none of us had any problem with that but they brooked no arguments as to the validity of that idea. And that made for some rather tense moments in the Pub late in the evening.

I think that was what led The Steward to turn down a group of Marion Zimmer Bradley acolytes who wanted to meet here some summers back. That he had brown eyes and had read The Mists of Avalon I’m sure had nothing to do with it . . .

By the Eighties, we started to get creative writing groups which I swear meant that grammar, logic, and even telling a story that makes sense were tossed in the rubbish bin. Iain, our new Librarian, actually started planning his vacations so that he and his wife were off somewhere else when such a group was here as he wanted nothing to do with them. Wise decision all in all.

(They got banned from reading their work to each other in the Pub. And pretty much anywhere else except where they had rented space.)

We still get to this one or two writing groups a year that meet our standards and are allowed to use the Estate, but I’m still more fond of knitters, artists, bread and cheese makers, real ale fans, and even the occasional horde of mass voice orchestras.

Cheers Reynard

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate Story: Writing Retreats (A Letter To Peter)

What’s New for the 14th of April: Joanna Russ, Live Music from Altan, Outlander, Really Great Brownies, Haunted Gotham and Other Neat Stuff

Of all the things a man may do, sleep probably contributes most to keeping him sane. It puts brackets about each day. If you do something foolish or painful today, you get irritated if somebody mentions it, today. If it happened yesterday, though, you can nod or chuckle, as the case may be. You’ve crossed through nothingness or dream to another island in Time -― Roger Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead

The weather was sublime this afternoon for nearly the middle of April: somewhat over twenty degrees, light breezes and full sun. Anyone who could get outside did, so I took advantage of the weather to continue my reading all things Zelazny by re-reading Isle of the Dead, a novel I hadn’t read in some thirty years but figured I’d let my Several Annies staff the Estate Library while I did some recreational reading. My book is a signed copy of the 0ver fifty-year-old Berkley Ace edition I had him sign at a con where he was a Guest of Honour some years back.

So I grabbed the novel, a large thermos of kickass Sumatran iced coffee with a generous splash of cream and an even more generous splash of Baileys, some sharp cheese, some dried meats, both pork and beef,  and salted smoked almonds as well.  There’s a spot near the Cricket pitch where there’s a few seats out of the wind but in full sun that’ll do for a reading spot.

I’ve got this Edition ready for you and it’ll be posted at four in the morning Sunday as they always are. Or it was posted at four in the morning Sunday — time’s something that’s kind of flexible oft times here…

Camille looks at a work that was the first novel in what has become a global cultural phenomenon: ‘It’s 2006, and the sixth novel of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, has just recently won the 2006 Quill Award in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category. For some of you, it may be 2007 or beyond, but like Gabaldon does in this series, I’m going to allow that time may have a more elastic quality than we have hitherto thought. In fact, like Outlander heroine Claire Randall, I’m going to step through my ring of magical stones here, and. . . . Ah! Here I am in 1991, with the first book of Gabaldon’s series, Outlander, newly published under the title Cross Stitch.’

Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span are two of my fav British folk rock(ish) bands, so it’s apt that Lars has a review of Brian Hinton and Geoff Wall’s biography of Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock as he helped birth both of those groups: ‘To some of us the subject of this book is, if not God, at least the musical equivalent to the pope. Name a group you like and have followed over the years, and there is a fair chance that Mr. Hutchings was there to start it, or at least influence the starting of it. He is in one way or another responsible for a very large number of the records in my collection, and yes, we are certainly talking three figures, here.’

An edition of The Grimm Tales edited by Francis P. Magoun, Jr. and Alexander H. Krappe wins the favor of Michael:  ‘So what’s so good about this particular volume, as opposed to the numerous other Grimms’ Fairy Tales out there on the market? Quite simply, accuracy. I have to admit a great deal of respect for anyone who can translate this many stories from German, and still manage to keep the authentic flavor of the text, and the colloquial language intact. And if some of the stories seem just a tad … surreal, you can thus blame it on the original text involved. Trust me, some of the originals -are- a bit on the surreal side. It’s a safe bet that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to publish the Grimms if they were alive and submitting manuscripts today.’

Robert takes a rather detailed look at a critical study of one of the key voices in science fiction in the twentieth century: ‘Anyone who wants to discuss science fiction since the mid-1960s, particularly with reference to sf’s increasing willingness to ponder questions of sexuality and gender, had better know their Joanna Russ. Happily, Farah Mendlesohn has, in On Joanna Russ, made that not only possible, but enjoyable.’

Asher states forthrightly that Mists of Avalon which is based on the Marion Zimmer Bradley novel ‘is a revisionist Arthurian tale. The film opens much like Braveheart‘s “Historians in England will say I am a liar…” with an agonized and weary, almost crucified Morgaine narrating — “No one knows the real story. Most of what you know… is nothing but lies” — as her boat glides into the mists, a device that welded this viewer to his seat, not wanting to miss any of the necessary adjustments to the legend.’

Kimberly has a choice bit of popcorn viewing for us: ‘As a made-for-television flick, Merlin is watchable fantasy fun. But if you want any fidelity to the original Arthurian legends, f’get-about-it! It ain’t gonna happen in this movie. Still, there aren’t tons of fantasy pieces on television that don’t require a barf-bag, so enjoy what you can from this one — particularly the special effects. The fairies in the magic woods are delightful, and so is the early scene where young Merlin is asleep in a hollow tree, where he meets Nimue for the first time and discovers his powers. Of course, Evil Queen Mab snatches Nimue from Merlin for revenge and scars her for life, but she is restored by Merlin’s love and last act of magic, to her youth. Merlin lives happily ever after with her. Awwwww.’

Don’t leave home with them. Jen certainly doesn’t as she says of her fabulous whiskey cherry brownies that she has been known to do this: ‘When I go to a conference or a doctor’s office or a small gathering of drunk authors, I bring these brownies in those tiny plastic “snack” boxes from the dollar store.’ H’h, I’ve known drug dealers that started out that way..

Cat has some horror for us in a DC series: ‘Gotham By Midnight centers around Precinct Thirteen, the GCPD Detailed Case Task Force. It’s just a handful of personnel — a Catholic sister and a forensics expert, both consultants, a GCPD Lieutenant, and of course, Jim Corrigan aka The Spectre. But this is not The Spectre as traditionally depicted in flowing robes and such with a hooded cloak. No, this is a much horrifying Spectre — one that lives just within the skin of Corrigan who himself is far less handsome than he was in the DC Showcase I previously reviewed. Of course, this is Corrigan in the dark nights of Gotham City, not the sunny vistas of Los Angeles.’

The atmosphere evoked by the south of France and the art made by the Impressionists who lived there informs guitarist Dominic Miller’s new album Absinthe, Gary notes. ‘Every track on Absinthe is almost like a short story.’

Gary also takes a close listen to the new CD from guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan, Epistrophy. ‘It is indeed all in fun, so grab this disc and prepare for epiphanies aplenty, of the musical kind.’

Robert takes us in quite a different direction with a look at Toru Takemitsu’s I Hear the Water Dreaming: ‘I’ve long been fascinated by the music of Toru Takemitsu, one of those post-War Japanese artists who incorporated Western ideas in music while maintaining a strong sense of Japanese traditions. My first run-in was with November Steps on vinyl, bought when I was in one of those experimental moods I get into in music stores. I loved it, which happens about 50% of the time with those purchases.’

And Robert follows that with a look at works by another contemporary composer, American Ned Rorem’s Winter Pages/Bright Music: ‘First, the confession: I have avoided Rorem’s music for years because I have an inexplicably deep-seated resistance to the art song in any form (whether this is because I was once a folk-singer or in spite of that fact, I’m not sure; the fact remains, the only “art songs” that have ever penetrated this reserve are Mahler’s great cycles, which are actually more symphonic than anything else). I then ran across selections from Rorem’s Nantucket Songs, performed by soprano Phyllis Bryn-Julson accompanied by Rorem himself (part of the CRI disc Gay American Composers), and decided to think about it again.’

This week’s What Not is a bit out of the ordinary. Well, not really, not for us. Robert takes a look at the Visconti-Sforza Tarocchi (that’s ‘tarot’ for you non-speakers of Italian), with a bit of history thrown in.

So it’s Spring and I can hear the Neverending Session playing some spritely tune in the distance as they too are outside which I know I’ve heard on the Infinite Jukebox, our media server, before. So let me pull Memoria, our music search app, up on my iPad and see what it says it is…

So it’s ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’ which I forgotten had been added to their list of favourite tunes a fortnight or so back. It’s by Altan as recorded  at the Folkadelphia Session in  Philadelphia though I see Memoria has not a clue what year it was done. Tasty piece of music indeed!

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 14th of April: Joanna Russ, Live Music from Altan, Outlander, Really Great Brownies, Haunted Gotham and Other Neat Stuff

A Kinrowan Estate story: Musical Ganeshas

Dear Svetlana,

Glad to hear that your trip to Ukrainian-speaking Canada went well. It’s amazing how much of their culture, including language, they’ve retained, as it’s well over a century since their ancestors settled there!

So you want know about the four Ganeshas residing in a spot behind the bar here in the Pub? You won’t be surprised to know there’s an interesting story behind them. It starts off a couple of decades ago when Ingrid and I were in Mumbai on a fabric-buying trip for a Glasgow client of hers. As is our usual habit in a city like this, we spend as much time as we can in markets looking for interesting things to buy, from spices and interesting grains to offbeat art when we see it.

Ingrid spotted these in a stall selling the usual tourist tat — hookahs, badly dyed fabrics, and fluorescent-coloured Buddhas. Does anyone buy an orange Buddha bright enough to see at midnight even if they were not stoned? She spotted the Ganeshas on a shelf in the back of the stall — not dyed for festival use but just plain brass and about eighteen inches high. She dickered for them and got a reasonable deal on them.

Getting them through Indian customs required using a broker, some baksheesh, and considerable patience. Our broker swore to the export staff that they were going in a library of some importance befitting that deity. They ended up in the Pub because they are playing instruments.

A few years later, I ran across an odd little place in Roundtree, Ireland, that had only sculptures from India. And that’s where the photo I’ve attached to this letter is from. They’re the biggest set of these I’ve ever seen!

Warmest thoughts, your Fox

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Musical Ganeshas

What’s New for the 7th of April: A Tale of Two Cities, A Bokashi Composter, Zombies, Scrapple, Jazz, Opera, and Other Tasty Matters

Is it more childish and foolish to insist that there is a conspiracy or that there is not? ― China Mieville’s The City & The City

A really great mystery that’s also an outstanding work of sf is rare indeed which is why is I read The City & The City every few years. That it also has great characters and a believable though fantastic setting are just added points in its favour. So I’ve got Finn covering the Pub on this warm, quiet evening as there’s a contradance outside on one of the stone patios that I knew my knees weren’t up to, so I’ve got that novel, a pint of our Two Ravens Stout to enjoy and I can hear the Neverending Session running through their tune list from the open windows near where I’m sitting.

But first, this edition. We’ve got a tasty recipe for scrapple, you Scots can think it of as Lorne sausage, a look at the  Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse film, a composter (!), some neat recordings and, errr, unicorns. Yes unicorns.

Chuck says wonderingly of our first Ian McDonald novel review that ‘I figure this much: Desolation Road starts with a green man crossing the desert, so this has to be the perfect book for Green Man Review. OK, the book calls him a “greenperson,” and the desert is on a Mars of the future, transformed by mankind’s effort, but you get the idea. Trailing this greenperson is Dr. Alimantando. He comes to a place along a railroad, where, almost accidentally, he settles and starts the community that he names Desolation Road. Soon after, more people begin arriving and, in short order, the community becomes a village, a city, a war zone and a ghost-town — all within 23 Martian years. That’s the story.’ Or is that the whole story ?

Richard looks at another Ian MacDonald Mars novel and has a cautionary note as his first words: ‘You will know whether you will love or hate Ares Express long before you have finished the first chapter. The litmus test is very simple: what is your reaction to the name of the main character. If you find Sweetness Octave Glorious-Honeybun Assim Engineer 12th to be painfully twee or flat-out incomprehensible, then you will hate this book.’

Robert has some comments on a book about writing. In fact, that’s the title: About Writing, by Samuel R. Delany: ‘A bit of history: I don’t really remember when I started reading Samuel R. Delany’s novels. . . . I liked his novels: they were “good,” which at that point was the most precise description I had available. (Now that term falls somewhere between describing my evaluation of literary quality and my gut response as a reader.) Then Dhalgren happened, which led me to understand that there was much more going on in these books than I had bothered to think about.’

Speaking of Dhalgren, guess what: Robert has a review of that, too: ‘Samuel R. Delaney’s Dhalgren was originally published in 1974. It was brash, it was overtly experimental, it was greeted with everything from wild hallelujahs to roars of outrage. It was in many ways the culmination of science fiction’s New Wave: where writers such as Aldiss, Ballard, Disch, Zelazny, and Delany himself had pushed the envelope, Dhalgren finally ripped it up and scattered the pieces. Mainstream critics, caught flat-footed, came up with the term “magical realism” in an attempt to link it to “respectable” if someone outré writers such as Borges and Garcia Marquez.’

Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman‘s The Unicorn Anthology gets a loving and detailed review by Warner: ‘As one who enjoys both older and newer fantasy works, a variety like this is appreciated, where many volumes would keep only to more recent fare, seeing previously anthologized pieces as less desirable. This is a brilliant little collection with a wonderful introduction and I recommend it wholeheartedly.’

Robert remembers a rather unusual zombie movie he saw some time ago: ‘I saw the trailer for Warm Bodies some while back, when I had gone to see something else, and thought “Cute, but probably not something I’ll want to see.” Well, I was looking to kill a couple of hours and discovered that it was at my favorite theater — 15 minutes away, cheap admission for early shows. So I went. Well, the Apocalypse has come, but it hasn’t been “the fire next time.” It was a virus, or something, that turned people into the living dead.’

And Cat was very enthusiastic about Marvel’s new animated feature, Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse: ‘I decided to watch Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse as a diversion while on an extended stay in the hospital. I expected it to be entertaining, and I was right!’

Jen reveals a recipe handed down to her mother from Appalachian cooks who specialized in corn and pork. Accept no substitutes from bowdlerized ‘country’ chain-restaurant menus. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, savory with roast pork and sage, sweet with sorghum syrup, scrapple is a food of the gods. And, since it’s country food, it’s cheap.

Robert takes us through a couple of what he calls ‘top-notch superhero comics’, The Authority: Vol. 1 and The Authority: Under New Management: ‘Looking for the beginnings of The Authority, I finally found Warren Ellis’ complete run, issued by DC as The Authority: Volume 1, which begins after the demise of Stormwatch.’

Cat says of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s The Quiet Room that ‘If you’re expecting a logical appraisal of this new recording — whose subtitle ‘Music to heal the heart and soothe the soul’ could be applied to every recording that this superb artistic couple has done over their long career — then you’re reading the wrong review. I like everything that they’ve done.’

Aaron Copland’s A Copland Celebration gets looked at by Gary who notes that ‘Sony Classical disgorged a cornucopia of Copland works. This three volume, six-CD set gives a good overview of the career of this quintessential American composer. It includes the best-known works — chamber, orchestral and choral — as well as a smattering of some of Copland’s lesser-known works, and some alternate versions and rarities previously unreleased on CD; and even a few never before released at all.’

Gary finishes off his look at Fade into Dawn with these words: ‘Field Medic’s music at first glance seems pretty far from the country, Americana and traditional folk music that typically hits my pleasure spot. But I’m totally won over by Kevin Patrick’s creative and subtle wordplay and blunt portrayal of his own emotional states inside catchy but minimal tunes.’ Now go read his stellar review to see how he came to that conclusion!

Robert rounds out this week’s music reviews with a look at yet another opera by one of our favorite contemporary composers: ‘Philip Glass’ Kepler is another of his “portrait operas,” this one of the seventeenth-century German mathematician and astronomer who developed the laws of planetary motion, which became the foundation, ultimately, of Newton’s theory of gravitation. It’s no mistake that the opera is set in the period of the Thirty Years’ War, — not only was that when Kepler lived, but it marked a transition point in the history of Western thought. Martina Winkel’s libretto, in German and Latin, contrasts Kepler’s words as he wrestles with the concepts he is developing with the words of one of his contemporaries, Andreas Gryphius, on the plight of Europe during the war.’

West Coast Cat is getting ready for her spring gardening and tries something new, a bokashi composter, a form of indoor composting that allows dairy and meat to be composted. She notes, “As far as tweaking one’s day to day life to be more eco-groovy, this is about a medium level effort in terms of work, set-up, and daily maintenance.”

So what’s that tasty piece of music Finn’s playing right now on the Pub sound system? Why it’s ‘Volunteered Slavery’ by Rahsaan Roland Kirk & His Vibration Society recorded forty six years at Fillmore East In New York City. Kirk was renowned for his lively presence onstage during which his improv of continuous banter, impassioned political speech making and the ability to play several instruments simultaneously.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 7th of April: A Tale of Two Cities, A Bokashi Composter, Zombies, Scrapple, Jazz, Opera, and Other Tasty Matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Fuck, That Was Strange

PIt was three in the morning, the time most babies are born and more people die than at any other hour. The Pub was empty but for me and The Old Man writing in his journal as His Ravens looked on. It was then she walked through a door which went where I did not know. She took a seat at the bar, order a whiskey from me  and looked at me with a gleam in her eyes.

I am, She said, just a figment of your imagination. I pondered this as I was sure it had been many, many years since I’d taken anything that gave me anything that odd for visions, be they dreams or nightmares

Ok, I said, I’ll play along. Why are you a figment of my imagination? Because I’m a figment of your imagination, she said.

Ahhhh a recursive loop, I thought. We can’t possibly both be the products of the other, I said.

Why not, she said, Is there any reason we can’t both be dreaming the other into being? Surely if Old Gods can sit here and no one notices them, then why not this as well?

Well, she had me there. So, I said, are we all but dreams of someone else? Is there an objective reality at all?

Surely you’re kidding, she murmured, you’re the Pub Keeper on an Estate where dead kings will keep fighting each other until time itself ends, where a dead librarian has been known to help patrons out late at night, where midnight wine is offered up as something to toast with, and where the very boundaries of the Estate encompass an ancient Wild Wood whose dimensions are far larger that can really exist in a rationale universe? And where you border what’s the Summerlands?

That earned her a dram of my very best whiskey which is centuries old and so costly that no one has ever ordered it. Need I say that the distillery was one that never existed in our reality as it’s from a Scotland where Bonnie Prince Charlie beat the English oh so long ago?

So, I asked, who are you?

Ahhh that would be telling was all she said as she downed that single malt. Suffice it to say that you and I will meet again as all mortals meet me eventually..

I turned to get her another dram but she was gone and when I turned around her glass was there, empty of course. I asked The Old Man what he thought of her and he gave me a queer look before saying that no one had been here for hours.

That made me pour myself from that ever-so-rare bottle and I never drink while working.


Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Fuck, That Was Strange

What’s New for the 31st of March: A Full Scottish Breakfast, Beatrix Potter’s Garden, Terrorists on Mars, Celtic and Eastern European Music, and more. . .

At the end of the season of sorrows comes the time of rejoicing. Spring, like a well-oiled clock, noiselessly indicates this time.  — Roger Zelazny’s “Passion Play”, found in Threshold: Volume 1, The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny

She arrived bearing a tray covered with a thick, colourful cloth. ‘It is’, she said,  ‘your full Scottish breakfast, complete with rashers of bacon, eggs cooked in the bacon fat, fat pork sausages seasoned with dried herbs, baked beans, fried tomatos and mushrooms, black and white puddings, hash browns, toast dripping with butter and Fey strawberry jam, and a very large mug of tea thick with cream. Now shall I sat it on the desk or the side table?’  I gestured to the desk and she left it there.

I set aside Threshold and picked up my iPad to read my overnight emails. I see that the Kitsune statue I want is available, there’s a niche picked out for it in the Pub admidst the Japanese folklore books that I’ve collected over the years. And one of my my sources says he’s found the cider craft books that Gus and Bjorn wanted. Nice. Those are very hard to find as they were printed in small runs.

Another friend wants to know if I and Ingrid might be interested in using their Reykjavík flat for a fortnight around Jónsmessa as they’ll be be out of the county on business. Certainly  we will — we adore Iceland that time of year and Finn said she’s willing to cover for me anytime. Lastly I see that there’s the last of the contracts for the curling contest this coming Winter being signed and returned  which means it’s a go!

Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life was a work much liked by Gus: ‘Like many serious gardeners, I collect books about gardens and those who created them. This one is a recent acquisition of mine that ranks among the best I’ve encountered! Subtitled ‘The plants and places that inspired the classic children’s tales’, it is just what it says it is: a look at the gardens (and botanical things) that inspired her children’s writings.’

Iain reviewed the audiobook edition of The Owl Service when it came out several years back: ‘Listening to The Owl Service as told by Wayne Forester, who handles both the narration and voicing of each character amazingly well, one is impressed by his ability to handle both Welsh accents and the Welsh language, given the difficultly of that tongue, which make Gaelic look easy as peas to pronounce by comparison.’

Margaret Lane’s The Tale of Beatrix Potter garners this intro by Laurie: ‘I like biographies, especially author biographies. When I was a small child, I was absolutely fascinated by a copy of a children’s biography of Louisa Mae Alcott that I found in my elementary school library; I thought it was an even better story than Little Women. I had a copy of a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and I loved to read it and look at the pictures included in the center. And Humphrey Carpenter’s Tolkien has long been a favorite of mine.’ Read her review to see why this biography measured up to those works.

Robert has a look at a pair of short fantasy novels from a master of fantasy literature: ‘Charles de Lint is known as “the godfather of urban fantasy,” and indeed, it’s in that genre that he’s made his mark – he’s never been a writer of heroic fantasy: in a better than thirty year career, very few buckles get swashed, although the two short novels included in Jack of KinrowanJack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon — come close, something of a romp a la Dumas pere — by way of Harold Lloyd, perhaps. Both concern the adventures of Jacky Rowan and Kate Hazel, best friends who find themselves enmeshed in the doings of the land of Faerie that coexists with modern-day Ottawa.’

Warner brings us his thoughts on The Future Is Female!, an anthology with a different point of view: ‘The Future is Female! represents The Library of America’s continued efforts to provide authoritative volumes on any given subject. This is a large collection, featuring twenty five stories that show a wide rang of fiction. In addition, there are notations both in the text proper and on a convenient website that the jacket links the reader to, detailing the history of the authors in question and their work.’

Robert has a look at an exceptional anime, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie: ‘When I first encountered Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, I had not read the manga nor seen the TV series — which actually left me with no expectations, which is a good thing. The basic story is your standard action/adventure with terrorist plot, future universe variety.’

Denise takes one for the team by reviewing Reese’s Outrageous! Pieces bar, and is less than impressed. ‘I’d much rather have each item separately, or simply wait for them to re-issue their vastly superior Reese’s Nutrageous bars that has peanuts instead of minis.’ Want to know why she’s wishing for candies of yore? Read her review!

Jen brings another quick ‘n’ dirty favorite with a ‘tump’ recipe for corn ‘n’ crab soup. It’s ideal for shoveling calories into a sudden bunch of guests. The crab makes them think it’s fanc-ay!

Robert has some thoughts on the dark side, as portrayed in Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda’s Stormwatch Vol. 1: The Dark Side: ‘It’s significant of something or other that so much in comics and comics-related work in recent years stresses “the Dark.” One of those is DC’s new version of Stormwatch, titled The Dark Side, which is something of a prequel to later (chronologically) Stormwatch teams and the Authority.’

The Guardian said of Kathryn Tickell, the great Northumbrian piper and fiddler, that her live show features  ‘… tunes played at times hauntingly with fingers blurring as they flick up and down the chanter or over the fiddle neck. Each set of tunes is separated by stories about friends and places all told quietly, ramblingly and with a gentle wryness. Her act is gripping, funny and moving.’ Ed certainly agrees, as his review of Debateable Lands, her eighth album, is glowing.

We get the nicest things in the post, which is how Lahri ended up reviewing Celtic singer-songwriter Jez Lowe’s Live at the Davy Lamp. He comments, “Jez Lowe is one of the consummate performers in Celtic music today. Hailing from the Northumbrian lands of Northeast England, near the Scottish Borders, he brings a distinctively northern edge to his music. Lowe grew up among the coal miners and working class people of the region. The fact that he is Irish on both sides of his family gives him a bit of an outsider’s perspective, and a perfect viewpoint for his novelette style songs. Over his long career he has made many fine albums, each a little gem, and has been backed by some of Britain’s most understated and finest musicians.”

Classical music from Argentina? Yes, says Robert, in discussing Bernarda Fink and Marcos Fink’s Canciónes Argentinas: Piazzola, Guastavino and Others: ‘We don’t normally think of Argentina when we think of “classical” music. Well, time to do some re-thinking. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a group of composers emerged in Argentina, the “Generación de 900,” that in many respects echoed movements in Europe and America at the time, particularly their emphasis on establishing a “national” music.’

Scott takes us through two albums by the all-woman vocal group Kitka: ‘Kitka are an all-female vocal ensemble from the the San Francisco Bay area that started in 1979. While members have come and gone over the ensuing forty years, Kitka remain firmly committed to promoting and celebrating the rich and diverse musical traditions of Eastern Europe and the women who shaped many of these traditions with their voices. This past year, Kitka decided to revisit the musical themes they explored on Wintersongs with a new CD called Evening Star. Both albums are worth a close look, not simply to assess the quality of the music but to see how Kitka have evolved over time.’

Our What Not is on Tolkien, which means the reply to our question as to what’s your favourite work by him comes from  Christopher Golden this time: ‘As much as I love The Hobbit , the trilogy always appealed to me more, even as a child. There’s a terrible wisdom that hangs over The Lord of the Rings, a thematic undercurrent that is all about mortality and acceptance of the limits of humanity. In so many ways, it’s about twilight. Yes, there’s love and magic and the brotherhood of human society that we must embrace and relish, but the joy that brings is a wistful joy, draped with melancholy. In the midst of orcs and songs and grand battles and fellowships, those are the things that have always spoken most intimately to me, and what make The Lord of the Rings, in my heart and mind, Tolkien’s greatest achievement.’

It’s April and the Neverending Session has finally decamped itself from the Green Man Pub so I’ve started thinking about what I’ll be doing for playlists in the evening. It’ll be mostly trad Celtic and here’s a sample of what I’ll be playing in the guise of The Braes of Moneymore by the legendary Patrick Street, as recorded off the soundboard at the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny on the tenth of April fourteen years ago. So not strictly trad Celtic but you get the idea, I take it?

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 31st of March: A Full Scottish Breakfast, Beatrix Potter’s Garden, Terrorists on Mars, Celtic and Eastern European Music, and more. . .

A Kinrowan Estate story: Booking Matters

From: Jack Merry, Booking Manager, Kinrowan Estate
To: Simon Sterling, Agent for Banish Misfortune

In talking to you last week about wanting to book one of the bands you represent, Banish Misfortune, I told you our terms for booking them and you agreed that they were indeed good terms. So imagine my surprise when I received not one, but four separate contracts totaling thirty pages in length!

No, we do not pay the band fifty percent in advance in order the ensure they get here. Our fee for performing is generous and I’m not daft. And where did you get the idea that we’d pay for transport here? Have you ever had a venue do so? I think not!

No, we do not accommodate vegan and vegetarian dietary needs. (Not that I believe a touring Scottish band has any such members.) We’re a working Estate that includes everything from bacon and sausages at breakfast to a really tasty roast chicken at supper.

We do not pay extra so that bands can afford to have their own sound technician come with them. If they need a sound technician, we’ll handle it, as there’s three of us who do sound.

We do record every show played here and I told you that when we talked. (And see my email to you for this as well.) So no, we will not ask the band’s permission to do so.

Publicity for this concert on local radio stations and in the area papers? Did you listen at all when I stated that the Kinrowan Estate is a remote Scottish land holding nearly twenty miles from the nearest village? And that the audience consists of Kinrowan Estate community members? I suppose I could tack a note to the Estate community bulletin board…

Accommodations in a hotel, not crash space where we have room? You do know that the nearest hotels, save the small ones in the village, are three to four hours away? They’ll stay in the guest yurts here.

Look I know that you’re young — I asked around to get your history — and are eager to build a stable of Irish and Scottish bands that you’ll be agent for, but you need to learn to be flexible or you won’t survive long.

Attached to this email is a one-page contract. Sign it and return two copies to me. The contract will be binding when I sign it.

Yours Jack Merry

PS: If you decide not to sign our contract, I’ll book Banish Misfortune directly as I’ve played with all three musos. (Yes, that’s a threat.) And Reynard, our Pub Manager who’s a concertina player, has played with Scott’s mother on a tour of Scandinavia and Josh’s father on a tour of France several times. So booking them directly means you get embarrassed and the thirty percent you’d get stays with them.

And I’ve got a small stable of groups I provide management services to, so I’d be glad to add them if they so desired. (Yes, that’s another threat.) My management cut’s flexible too.

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Booking Matters

What’s New for the 24th of March: Istanbul, Tulips, Church Music, Tyrannical Gods, Giant Bears and Other Colourful Matters

Many individuals grew suddenly rich. A golden bait hung temptingly out before the people, and, one after the other, they rushed to the tulip marts, like flies around a honey-pot. Every one imagined that the passion for tulips would last for ever, and that the wealthy from every part of the world would send to Holland, and pay whatever prices were asked for them. — Charles Mackay’s Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

I was mucking about the Estate these past month, so Iain offered me up the chance to edit an edition of Green Man and I whole-heartedly accepted. After all, I’ve been around here for many decades off and on. Remember that Hungarian food hamper? I started the tradition of exchanging of food laden hampers shortly after the War. Damned if I can remember which war that was…

So did  you notice how colorful the tulips are right now? Most of them are rarer breeds, many acquired by Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, in trade with MacGregor, a fellow tulip enthusiast who goes to the Turkish tulip markets to get the rarer heirloom tulips. Just don’t get Gus talking about tuplips unless you’re planning on being there quite awhile!

If you’re really interested in the history of tulips, drop by his workshop late this afternoon as he’s giving the Several Annies, Iain’s Library Apprentices, a practical exercise in how history really happens, using the Dutch Tulip Mania as his example. And we’ve reviewed a book on their origins in the guise of  Ottoman Tulips, Ottoman Coffee: Leisure and Lifestyle in the Eighteenth Century, which has a nice article on the actual history of the so-called Tulip Period of the Ottoman Empire. Do beware that these papers are dry at times as they’re intended for other scholars.

Istanbul’s been one of my favourite cities for, well, a very long time now. So science fiction set there is certainly of interest to me. So I was appreciative of Cat’s look at Walter Jon Williams’ This Is Not a Game: ‘All of us in one manner or another are storytellers, so I found the idea of a novel that told the story of Dagmar, a woman who runs ARGs (augmented reality games) hence her being called the puppet master, to be very appealing. She runs these ARGs for Great Big Idea, a company founded by two of her University friends who were deep into role playing games where they were all in university.’ See what happens when the game merges with real world politics.

And likewise Gary says the Istanbul of Ian McDonald’s near-future novel The Dervish House is rather like what our own world could be very soon: ‘…hotter, more crowded, with an even starker divide between rich and poor, and teeming with technology. … It’s also brimming with Anatolian spirits that sometimes seem indistinguishable from the effects of nano-technology.’

Speaking of hotter, Denise takes a look at Naomi Bloom’s Sealed, a post-apocalyptic (rather, make that during-apocalypse) tale well worth a read. ‘This is a first novel? Wow. Absolutely stunning.’

Warner has an in-depth look at a new edition of Madeleine L’Engle‘s Kairos Novels: ‘This Library of America collection includes the eight novels most readily associated with L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, including that book itself. These are divided in this instance into two smart little volumes, The Wrinkle in Time Quartet and The Polly O’Keefe Quartet. What sets the Library of America editions apart is a wealth of new and, relatively, lesser known material.’

Robert approached this week’s film offering with some hesitation: ‘Stargate presented a bit of a problem for me — it became a “cult film”, which is something I usually tryd to avoid, but it was a) science fiction, and b) somewhat out of the ordinary. So, I picked up the DVD.’

We once upon a time asked Gwyneth what her favorite cold weather comfort food and here’s the lead-in to her long and delightful answer: ‘Chestnuts, I’m obsessed with chestnuts at Christmas. The obsession dates back to childhood, when chestnuts roasted over the coals on a fire-shovel were a winter treat, back in the primitiive and labour intensive days when my parents’ house was heated by an Aga (solid fuel range) in the kitchen, and coal/wood fires elsewhere. And marrons glacees were the ultimate in sophistication…’

G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker’s Air: Letters from Lost Countries is, as April notes, a bit unusual: ‘Blythe is not your typical airline attendant. Sure, she’s blonde, pretty and personable, playing into every conceivable stereotype there is. But Blythe is much more than that. For starters, she’s acrophobic, surviving each flight only through the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals. Then there’s the attractive, mysterious passenger she’s fallen in love with, who may or may not be a terrorist. Not to mention that because of him, she’s become involved with the rather violent Etesian Front, who claim to be an anti-terrorist group, but may be little more than vigilantes. So when her beloved disappears, then sends her a letter from a country that isn’t on any map, what’s a woman to do? If you’re Blythe, you pack up, enlist the help of trusted friends, and go find him, maps be damned.’

Our West Coast Cat has this to say about Rupa and the April Fish’s Growing Up: ‘It’s a complicated, layered, beautiful piece that is hopeful and fierce all at once, exercising that loving kindness and radical tenderness on the listener and challenging them to follow suit.’

Gary reviews American Music, Vol. VII, the new CD by Austin, Texas-based Grupo Fantasma. ‘I don’t think you’ll hear many records this year that move effortlessly from Turkish psychedelia on one track to Tex-Mex to cumbia and other Afro-Caribbean rhythms, all set to a big, brash funk sound.’

Lars looks at Flat Earth Society: ‘I must say West of Eden has done it again. It is an instantly recognizable West of Eden album, while at the same time being very different from their last. (Not counting the retrospective sampler from two years ago.) A more mellow, acoustic product. But give it time and it will grow on you. An album to keep, cherish and come back to in years to come.’

Robert has some thoughts on John Tavener’s The Last Sleep of the Virgin and other works: ‘Like many contemporary composers, John Tavener uses music in the service of spirituality. He is a convert to the Russian Orthodox faith; the traditions of that faith have influenced his work as much or perhaps more than trends in music.’

And as long as we’re on the subject of what he calls ‘church music’, Robert also has some thought’s on Arvo Pärt’s Kanon Pokajanen: ‘ It is no small irony that in an age that is condemned for being increasingly secular and materialistic, at least some of, if not the most significant and compelling music in Europe and America is, or has as its inspiration, church music: Krysztof Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion, Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, the music of John Tavener, Terry Riley’s Requiem for Adam and, perhaps more than any of these, the music of Arvo Pärt.’

Ever need to feel a soft touch, warm arms around you, the feel of fur…just me? Well apparently not, because Costco has heard our cries for a freakishly large teddy bear, and they’ll deliver. Quite literally. Yep, they’ve gone and created a ninety three inch teddy, for all your snuggle needs. That’s right; almost eight feet of pure teddy bear goodness. Shipping and handling included. I hope that means white glove service, as teddy bears do deserve the very finest treatment.

It’s caused quite a stir around here, as many of us would love one…purely for work purposes. Not to nap on, or to plop down in that corner by the kitchen where a certain editor likes to snuggle up to whatever kitten is nearby, (and perhaps a bowl full of the latest kitchen ‘experiment’). We are professionals here. But there are others who have gone absolutely crazy for this ted. I can’t blame ’em one bit. Oh, to have a room full o’ these bears, to burrow into and relax in quiet, floofy contentment. But perhaps one will do as a start? Now, about that latest ‘experiment’…

It being early Spring, let’s have something warm and sprightly for our music this time from the Infinite Jukebox. Hmmm… ‘Kashmir’ by Page and Plant will do nicely! It was recorded  apparently thirty three years ago, possibly at Glastonbury but I wouldn’t bet the Estate on how truthful that is. It’s definitely a lovely take by them on this Moroccan influenced work.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 24th of March: Istanbul, Tulips, Church Music, Tyrannical Gods, Giant Bears and Other Colourful Matters

A Travels Abroad story: Reykjavik, or busking in the cold


One of the finest ales I’ve ever encountered was while I was busking in Reykjavik one cold November day when it was getting far too cold to make a profit. I looked around and saw a pub near the corner where I was playing that looked inviting — hell, anything would have looked more comfortable than where I was at that point, but it really did look cheery. After settling my rather cold self into a corner near the fireplace, I ordered an Egils Premium Lager from Egil Skallagrímsson Brewery and it was quite excellent with an open-faced smoked mackerel and onion sandwich. Most tasty! Fortified by the ale, warmth, and the good pub fare, I ventured out to busk for a few more hours. I can’t say I made all that much doing so but at least I felt a bit more alive.

Fingerless gloves help a bit. A long military greatcoat and sturdy boots helped too, as I kept my feet warm by stamping my heavy boots every so often. But nothing really helps all that much when it gets that cold. The main problem is keeping the fiddle strings from getting too brittle as it’s certainly cold enough to damage them if they weren’t being kept warm by constant playing. I eventually decided I’d rather be warm and retreated to a nearby Pub to sip ale and read more of Theodora Goss’ In the Forest of Forgetting I borrowed from the Estate Library.

Brigid had a far easier time of it while I out busking as she was on a buying trip for The Steward. She had the mission of helping Reynard restock the Pub with choice Icelandic spirits including Brännvin, flavored and unflavoured, and several different vodkas, particularly Reyka, a relatively new small batch vodka that is considered quite good. Now, unless a vodka is flavored, it all tastes to me like, well, nothing. I’ll stick with ales, ciders and whiskies, each of which has its own distinctive taste.

We’re hosting Several Annies currently who hail from this city, so they asked us to bring home some treats. Fortunately not fermented sheeps head! No, they had more mundane requests such as Skyr cheese, which to my eye looks like yogurt but really isn’t, copies of mystery novels including Arnaldur Indriðason’s new one called Svartur Festingin, and lots of íslenska sauðkindin wool to use in knitting, as they claim it’s far superior to our Scottish Blackface sheep. I’m certain the knitting circle that Liath Evergreen has going on in the Pub most nights during the Winter will be delighted by the several hundred pounds we shipped back. And I’m sure the members of the Old Norse Reading Group will be delighted by the Brännvin we brought back.

(That group’s currently learning Hrafnkel’s Saga. I’ll admit it’s one of the leading gems of Old Icelandic literature, something that’s not a field with a lot of gems in it. Hrafnkel is more or less the Job of the North — a pious but overbearing bully, he offends all his neighbors with his violent ways, refusing to pay wergild and indulging in ostentatious sacrifices. This gets him a long run of bad luck and worse politics, culminating in his being reduced to being dependent on one of his own shepherds. And then the cabal of his enemies murders his beloved horse. At that low point, Hrafnkel becomes a non-believer, and curiously, The Saga reports he’s also a much nicer guy after he decides the gods are no help.)

Reynard had a request as well, as he has a fondess for rímur (epic vocal poems) which were first collected in the late Nineteenth Century by folklorist Ólafur Davíðsson and were then printed up in the first Icelandic folk music collection, Íslenzk þjóðlög (Book of Folk Songs), by Bjarni Þorsteinsson which first published in 1936 by Oxford University Press. We’ve reviewed a few of the recordings of this music over the years including Rímur: A Collection From Steindór Andersen. I used to blame Reynard for introducing Icelandic tunes to the Neverending Session until The Steward pointed out this story to me which proved they’ve been played here for a very long time.

It was a nice visit but as always it was nice to get back home in Kinrowan Hall where I needn’t venture out in the cold unless I want to!


Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Travels Abroad story: Reykjavik, or busking in the cold

Whats New for the 17th of March: It’s Almost Spring, Or Is It? Aliens, the Irish, Chocolate, Bartók Does Folk, and more

Where I’ve been is places, and what I’ve seen is things, and there’ve been times I’ve run off from seeing them, off to other places and things. I keep moving, me and this guitar with the silver strings slung behind my shoulder. Sometimes I’ve got food with me, and an extra shirt maybe, but most times just the guitar, and trust to God for what I need else.”
Manly Wade Wellman’s Who Fears The Devil


We had a party here last week to welcome in Spring (and of course we got a nasty blizzard a few days later) and the late night antics among band members got a bit strange, such as when a quite besotted Irish band member was fighting with an equally drunk member of a Welsh punk band over who got the snout of the pig from the roast…  and no,  I’ve no idea where the snout actually ended up, nor what either of them wanted of it.

Iain’s off with the Several Annies,  his Library apprentices,  assisting Gus in watching over the pregnant ewes so Gus or one of his staff can assist with the birth when the Goddess so deems it to be. That means I get to assemble this What’s New, so let’s see what I found for you… P

Cat had high hopes for Philip DePoy’s The Devil’s Hearth as he has ‘a special fondness for mystery series set in the Appalachian Mountains, even though there aren’t a lot of good ones and a lot of not so great ones. Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballads series had some memorable outings, particularly among the later novels, and one which was outstanding, Ghost Riders.’ Read his review to see if DePoy lived up to his expectations.

Denise reviews Aliens Omnibus Volume 7: Criminal Enterprise and No Exit. if you’re a fan of this mythology (because let’s face it, this behemoth of a franchise is large enough to warrant that descriptive), you’ll want to dig in.’ If you’re on the lookout for something spooky, take a look at her review to see if these tales might do the trick.

Richard has a look at The Third Cry to Legba, and Other Invocations, the first in an impressive series : ‘Manly Wade Wellman is the literary equivalent of a favorite corner bar. The regulars all know the place and sing its praises to the heavens, but somehow the restaurant critics and Saturday night crowds never seem to find the place. And we, as patrons, are secretly relieved that we still have it all to ourselves. That way, when we pass other patrons, we can give each other secret little smiles because, well, we know something the rest of you don’t.’

In honor of the day, Robert has a couple of books on things Irish. First off, Malachy McCourt’s The Claddagh Ring: ‘The Claddagh ring is a ring fronted by a crowned heart held in two hands; usually gold (although I have seen them in silver), it symbolizes “friendship, loyalty and love.” Irish in origin, it has a rich history in Irish folklore and has become a transcultural phenomenon. Malachy McCourt has a reputation as gifted storyteller. The combination should be unbeatable.’

And next, a look at Ireland’s recent history in R. F. Foster’s Luck and the Irish: ‘One might think, just on the face of it, that a history of Ireland over the past thirty years or so would be of interest mainly to a specialist. (Or perhaps a gung-ho Irish expatriate.) However, in his introduction to Luck and the Irish, R. F. Foster casts his history into a much broader perspective.’


HandMade Films was a British film production and distribution company founded by that George Harrison. Notable films from the studio included Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Time Bandits, The Long Good Friday and the film Cat’s reviewing for us, The Raggedy Rawney. He says that it ‘is based on traditional Rom folklore — something I personally found fascinating. This adaptation of folk tradition to contemporary times makes it more fully comprehensible, compared with portraying it in the ancient long, long ago time. At least for me.’

The Michael Kamen soundtrack is equally fascinating for him, as he tells us: ‘Some pieces of film music stick with you long after you’ve seen the film. And if it’s a really interesting tune or song, it may make you seek out the soundtrack and see how it sounds outside of the film. Such was the case with the specific piece that got my mojo rising: the Blowzabella-style music that showed up in the wedding scene in Raggedy Rawney’.

For all you chocolate lovers (and I’m sure there are many), Robert has a look (taste?) of a nice variation — Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark: ‘Now, I’m pretty much a purist as far as chocolate is concerned — the more cacao the better, and I want it to taste like chocolate. However, there are exceptions to that self-imposed rule, and chocolate with orange, being one of the classic combinations, qualifies.’


Danger Girl: The Ultimate Collection by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell caused Denise’s inner five-year-old to think ‘the best marketing for this series would be a ‘Got Boobies?’ campaign.’ Her adult self answers, ‘As a woman I’m sure I should be offended / flabbergasted / spouting off some sort of Subjugation Of Women claptrap, but this series is just too beautifully drawn to be anything less than breathtaking.’


Muzsikas’ The Bartók Album gets an appreciative look by Brendan, who also reviewed Bartok’s  Yugoslav Folk Songs which you’ll see connects intrinsically to this recording: ‘During a recent festival in celebration of the works of Béla Bartók — one of this century’s most important musical composers — at Bard College, the Hungarian tradition revivalist band Muzsikas discovered that many people were quite familiar with Bartok’s classical compositions while being quite ignorant of the Hungarian folk musical traditions that inspired much of those compositions.’

No’am says of the release simply called 25 Years of Celtic Music that ‘The Connecticut-based record company Green Linnet is celebrating its silver jubilee and in recognition of this fact has issued this double CD, containing two and a quarter hours of some of the best traditional Irish music available. Although length-wise the discs are divided equally, the first disc covers 1976-1996, whereas the second disc covers only three years, 1997-2000.’ An addendum by an editor: Green Linnet would last but another five years before its assets were sold off to another company.

Richard has high praise indeed for a Maddy Prior album; ‘Flesh & Blood is one of the finest CDs I’ve heard in years. Prior’s voice, always angelic, has never sounded better; and, with the able help of Nick Holland and Troy Donockley, she has picked material that does her vocal talents justice. Indeed, the collection is so captivating that I’ve had to take it out of my work rotation; after all, I don’t get paid to stand around and gawk dreamily to music.’

For all you contemporary music aficionados, Robert suggests an album from one of the premiere ensembles in that area: ‘Winter was Hard is one of Kronos Quartet’s anthology albums, and contains a wealth of contemporary music from a wide range of approaches. It is one of the first of their recordings that I owned (in cassette) and my first exposure to many of the composers included. Coming back to this album after several years, I am amazed at how much of this music is now familiar from other contexts.’

Our What Not this week is another treat from Folkmanis. Says Robert: ‘I seem to have another Folkmanis puppet lurking around, this one the Rat In a Tin Can. The Folkmanis website describes him as being ready for a playful picnic (note the napkin in one paw). However, it seemed to me that he might just as easily be a waiter in an upscale rat restaurant: his black-and-white pattern might almost be taken for formal wear.’


So let’s finish off with some choice music from Nightnoise, to wit ‘Toys, Not Ties’ which was performed at Teatro Calderón de la Barca, which is a theater in Valladolid, Spain, on the 23rd of April twenty-seven years ago. For more on this superb sort of Celtic band, go read our career retrospective here. Nightnoise had its origins in members of the Bothy Band and Skara Brae, august bands indeed, and also included fiddler Johnny Cunningham for a while.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on Whats New for the 17th of March: It’s Almost Spring, Or Is It? Aliens, the Irish, Chocolate, Bartók Does Folk, and more

A Kinrowan Estate story: Concert tales


Greetings Reynard,

I hope you and Ingrid are enjoying your break from here while on a busman’s holiday in Scandinavia. As you well know, it’s quiet here right now as there’s no conferences or other bookings here, and most of the staff is busy helping Gus with lambing and other spring activities.

But I got a question here last night that’ll amuse you. The visitor was here from Riverrun Estate checking on how his daughter was doing in her Several Annie library apprenticeship and he was having a pint of ale, I think it was the last of the winter ale, and he overheard me talking to Finch who was tending bar about a band I managing a tour for and he sighed and said it must be exciting to work with musicians.

I snorted and said ‘not always.’ So then I told tales of musicians that were less than fun to be around. I started off with the tale of the female English folk rock legend who demanded that the I turn off the furnace in in the venue we were having the concert in as it disturbed her concentration. I looked at the contract, saw no such clause, and said no as it was February! She called the next morning to bitch that the CD sales count was off and I simply asked if she’s given our merch staff a count. She cursed loudly and said ‘what did that matter’. I hung up.

And then there are the bands that get lost. I had one Scottish band, good lads all, who called three hours before concert time, and just one hour before tech check, to say they couldn’t find the venue. After a few minutes, I discovered they were thirty miles away in a town with a similar name. After finishing their pints, they got here just in time for the concert. No tech check, so they played it acoustic and were simply brill!

I had at least three bands over the years, all relatively new bands and all quite young as well, break up before they got to play. Usually it was because there was a couple in the band and frankly that breaks up younger bands. One such band had the female vocalist dating one of the fiddlers and the other female vocalist dating the smallpiper. Finch who knows the smallpiper says none of them are talking to each other these days.

The next-to-last story I told wasn’t one that happened to me but happened to a friend of a friend. A fairly well-known Celtic band was doing a tour through Western Canada and down to the Southwestern USA where they were to join up with Big Bad Wolf as their opening act. The promoter was dating the vocalist and allowed him to handle the money receipts for the tour. She was to join them in New Mexico for the Big Bad Wolf tour they were the opening act for and she drove to the hotel there where they were to be staying.

She got to hotel, went to the front desk, and asked the clerk where the band was. He said ‘Who?’ She gave him the name of her boyfriend and he informed her that he canceled the reservations. It took her a full day to figure out that they done their date last night and, this being long before The Towers came down, had booked seats back to Ireland. With some forty thousand dollars in cash.

Yes, she was out one boyfriend, her thirty percent as promoter, and had one very pissed-off music company as they’d fronted her ten thousand to cover tour costs. The band never played here again but my friend met one of the fiddlers in Stockholm a few years after and he said that the boyfriend figured that was easier than breaking up with her.

I ended on an up note by telling him the tale of the Scottish fiddler who I booked on a Canadian tour who was a perfect gentleman who treated the merch staff right proper, played three sets every night, and even played in several céilidhs when invited to do so. All he asked was good drams of single malt and places to eat that did a Scottish fry-up or something similar for breakfast along with a pint to start the day.

I think our visitor left a wee bit disillusioned at my stories but that I cannot help as music is a business for many of us.

See you in a few weeks, Jack


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Concert tales

What’s New for the 10th of March: American and Nordic Roots Music, Yummy Recipes, Fiction by Roger Zelazny and Other Comforting Matters

Death is the only god that comes when you call. — Roger Zelazny’s 24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai 


I’ve been reading a lot of Zelazny this winter as he’s one of the writers I go to when I want to be absolutely sure of  a good read that’s interesting but not too challenging. He’s not a perfect SF writer by any means but his characters are interesting, his settings reasonably thought out and his stories generally well developed. Right now I’m reading Donnerjack which just perhaps was written mostly by Jane Lindskold whose relationship with him is uncertain. It certainly wasn’t completed before his much too early death since it consisted, or so it is said, largely of notes and story fragments.

There’s been ample reading time as no one’s been going outside on the Kinrowan Estate ground save essential staff as our most recent storm by the name of Freya brought dangerous amounts of snow and freezing ice this week here. The Kitchen staff has as always been making lots of soups and they gotten into serving American style biscuits with them which means that I can get those for breakfast when I want them. Ham, egg and cheddar cheese, Border strawberry jam and butter… I’m drooling now.

Denise dug into her almost toppling To Be Read pile and has three non-fiction reviews for us, Jen has two very yummy recipes, our What Not is a double dose of de Lint’s Crow Girls,  our music reviews include lots of interesting music and the Tim O’Brien Band sees us out this time. So let’s get started…


Denise digs into her stash of nonfiction this go-round, and reviews My Beer Year by Lucy Burningham, a memoir of Burningham’s studies for a Master Cicerone certification. ‘ [S]he tackles her year of living with beer just as dutifully as she did her beer studies, delivering a fun real-life tale.’

Ever wonder what it must be like to run a kitchen? Wonder how an award winning female chef does it? That’s all in Jen Agg’s I Hear She’s A Real Bitch. ‘Agg’s unflinching look at her life feels like a master class in the art of running a restaurant…’ Well, read Denise’s review to find out more!

And Denise finishes her hat-trick of nonfiction book reviews this edition with Reading Stephen King, a collection of essays from Cemetery Dance. ‘This collection has the vibe of King’s Danse Macabre – a feeling that you’re not really reading, you’re having a mind conversation.’ If you’re into Uncle Stevie – or just enjoy essays from very talented folks – check out the review to find out who’s got what to say about King’s oeuvre.

The Ides of Octember: A Pictorial Biblography of Roger Zelazny is, I’ll  note, ‘a bibliography which was prepared as part of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, a six volume undertaking, of which you’ll find the first volume, Threshold, reviewed here.’ Read my review on this bibliography which admittedly only diehard Zelazny fans or libraries with a strong  sf emphasis will consider buying, so quite naturally we have a copy here in the Kinrowan Estate Library.

If there is one essential work by Zelazny, it’s the The Great Books of Amber which Rebecca says of that ‘Zelazny has a distinctive and entertaining voice, and an easy way with a story. I highly recommend the Amber series.’ Read her detailed review to see why, despite some reservations, why she really likes this series. For a second take on the first five books which form the first story in the series, read Cat’s review of the audiobooks here.


For those who are still enjoying a winter refrigerated by frequent polar vortices and ornamented with snow, snow, snow, Jen cooks up a cold-weather stew of beef chunks with smoky dried guajillo peppers and fresh mushrooms, splashed with wine and served with beer.

Do you love the tastes of Thai? She also  brings us coconut milk, ginger, lime, garlic, cilantro, and mild curry together in a thick, hearty seafood chowder with shrimp, scallops, and … peanut butter? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.


Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak’s Brundibar gets a review from Rebecca: ‘Pepicek (very small) and Aninku (his sister, even smaller) have a problem: their mother is very sick. The doctor told them to go to town to get milk, but how can two children who have no money buy milk? And how can they get money when they have nothing to sell? They could sing for money … except that Brundibar (Czech slang for bumblebee) can sing much louder than two small children, and he chases them off. With the help of three talking animals, three hundred schoolchildren, and eventually the whole town, they chase off bullying Brundibar, get money and milk for their mommy, and so are happy again.’

PGary must’ve liked the self-titled debut by Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves, for he says ‘this is a highly entertaining album of old-time music drawn from a wide variety of sources, played by two very talented young people who sound like they’re having a great time.’

Kjell-Erik Arnesen’s Calls and Jrgen Larsen and Frydis Ree Wekre’s Ceros are recommended by Joel — ‘Both of these albums are horn-based. The horn is much less popular, it seems, than its cousins in the brass family. Most jazz bands have saxophone, trombone, and trumpet sections (in order of decreasing size), but no horns. I haven’t heard much where the horn was the primary instrument before now (nor as the only brass instrument), but two talented horn players demonstrate its versatility on these albums.’

Robert, as we’ve come to expect, has something a little out of the ordinary — or at least, ‘ordinary’ for GMR. The Dowland Project’s Romaria is a contemporary collection of early music: ‘I’ve remarked often enough on the relative importance of tradition and innovation in performance (which I consider variables) that I have no real need to repeat myself here, except to note that any performer who is working with material that he or she has not personally created is really negotiating with the past.’

He follows sup with Stephen Emmer’s Recitement, which — well, as Robert says: ‘I love it: pop culture invades the avant-garde. OK – now I’ve got that off my chest and am sitting here listening to Stephen Emmer’s Recitement. It’s really popular music, and Emmer has boosted it up a level in the “serious” vein by coupling it with spoken word segments from a wide range of speakers: actors, authors, artists, performers, many of whom are household names (at least in this household), and some of whom are total strangers.’


Our What Not is something that strictly speaking should’ve gone up over Christmas but it’s such a charming story that I decided to share it again now. So let’s start off  this time with a look at Charles de Lint’s Newford Stories: The Crow Girls. Of all the immortal shapeshifting beings that inhabit the Newford stories, the most charming, at least for me, are Maida and Zia, the two Crow Girls, who look like pinkish teenagers — all in black, naturally. After you read Cat’s review, you can experience them first hand in ‘A Crow Girls Christmas’ written by (obviously) the author and charmingly illustrated by his equally talented wife, MaryAnn Harris.


With St. Patrick’s Day coming up soon, we’re pleased to be able to feature a special track from American roots musician Tim O’Brien’s new release. Tim O’Brien Band‘s self-titled CD drops on St. Paddy’s day itself, Friday, March 15. It’s a sprightly cover of the tune set of “Hop Down Reel / Johnny Doherty’s Reel,” from Irish fiddlers Kevin Burke (The Bothy Band, Patrick Street, Celtic Fiddle Festival, and, well, Kevin Burke) and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Altan, String Sisters, T With the Maggies). It’s a lovely blending of Irish and bluegrass styles and traditions. More about the album at O’Brien’s website.

It’s a double celebration, too, because the day after St. Patrick’s Day, O’Brien will mark his 65th birthday! Born in Wheeling, West Virginia, on March 16, 1954, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist first toured nationally with Colorado bluegrass band Hot Rize, which last year marked 40 years as a band. Over the years, Tim has collaborated with his sister Mollie O’Brien, songwriter Darrell Scott, and noted old-time musician Dirk Powell, as well as with Kevin Burke, Steve Earle, Mark Knopfler, Bill Frisell, and Steve Martin.

Without further ado, here’s Hop Down Reel / Johnny Doherty’s Reel with the Tim O’Brien Band. Sláinte!

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 10th of March: American and Nordic Roots Music, Yummy Recipes, Fiction by Roger Zelazny and Other Comforting Matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Garden Planning


All the gardens here are by long standing tradition an ongoing collaboration between the Estate Head Gardener and the Estate Head Cook. So you ask, how does that work out? Quite well actually . . .

Keep in mind that one is not ‘hired’ for either of those positions but ends up in them after decades of working here. I started here as a seasonal worker under the tutelage of a somewhat eccentric Head Gardener who called himself Badger. I worked here nearly a decade during summers weeding and harvesting before he thought I’d proved myself worthy of full-time work. I think it helped that I was truly interested in learning all things botanical so I spent much of my time ‘ere after work (and after cleaning myself up!) either in the Kitchen learning what they did with what we grew or in the Estate Library reading the centuries of journals kept by the Head Gardeners ‘ere.

(Mrs. Ware speaking. The Journal kept by the Head Cook at the time says he also spent a lot of time eating and drinking, flirting with the younger female staff, and being a bloody pain in the ass of Mrs. Hellstrom, the Head Cook at the time, by always asking questions. But he was quite willing to do the hard work of cutting up soup stock, cracking marrow bones, and even cleaning pots.)

I also discovered the area around the Estate (and I did not know this though I grew up not far from where I live and work now, as my Swedish parents moved here from Stockholm when I was quite young) had a long tradition of hedge witches. Don’t laugh: these folk know more about practical botany than you and I have long since forgotten! They know which herbs the midwife needs to ease a difficult birth; they can make a fever go away with a tea made of just the right plant; they know where the ley lines run; and I’m convinced a few knew more than a bit of Wild Magic.

But the best teachers are the plants and their companion creatures: listen carefully and an apple tree will tell you how it’s feeling; knock just so on a pumpkin and you’ll know how ripe it is; listen to the bees in the spring and they’ll tell you what’s coming for weather. Even the bloody ravens are worth listening to. Well, most of the time . .

I worked my way up through the gardening staff ’till the day came that Badger retired to raise bees in Sussex like a friend of his from London did.

So, Mrs. Ware and I (as I did with previous Head Cooks – I’ve been here now as Head Gardener nigh unto fifty years and she’s ‘only’ been Head Cook for a mere twenty years), sit down in December in her Office and plot out what will be new this year.

Will we try those Border berries that start out red and turn white as they ripen? Is it possible to grow those potatoes that a Several Annie remembers from her childhood in Breton? Can we find a way to grow more tomatoes outside as the Greenhouse ones just lack something? Why did the Russian rhubarb bolt so early this year? Questions, debates, and then answers emerge over several months of conversation.

Of course, the collaboration continues during the growing season as we harvest the bounty of the Estate, plant new crops, and look at what is working and what isn’t.

Now you’ll need to excuse me as Iain, our Librarian, has his apprentices scheduled to take a walk with me to the Oberon’s Wood where they’ll get a talk on the history of holly and evergreen boughs as decorative elements for the Winter Holiday season. You can come along if you want . .


Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Garden Planning

What’s New for the 3rd of March: Bond, Beast, Dr. Who, Hedgehogs and other late winter matters

I’ve always been impulsive. My thinking is usually pretty good, but I always seem to do it after I do my talking—by which time I’ve generally destroyed all basis for further conversation. — Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal, a novel that stated life as Call Me Conrad, a novella


It’s but three weeks until Spring officially arrives and I actually saw yellow crocuses up against the south side of Kinrowan Hall this past week! Which promptly got buried under a foot of snow several days later. Oh well. They’ll soon be back as the snow will soon melt away as the sun’s too strong for it to last that long.

One moment while I feed Hamish, one of our resident hedgehogs, his live grubs. I keep trying to convince him to try woodworms, but a hedgehog is not an innovator. Unfortunately. Ingrid, one of my Seveal Annies, is in charge of maintaining the supply of the grubs, not an easy task. Though I usually only note Hamish here, we’ve actually a half dozen ‘hedgies here as they’re social beasts.

The Library is its usual busy self this time on a Winter evening so I’ll need to turn to my duties so I’ll have to let you go. Now that means you can get to this Edition. You’ll find a visiting author on his favourite Tolkien work, Jen on a yummy recipe of hers,  Cat on a rather unique Doctor Who graphic novel, another author we adore sharing her hedge photos and other neat stuff as well. Oh and and live music from the Oysterband tonsee us out.


Book reviews aren’t the only source of opinions on literature here. Sometimes we ask authors questions like which of the Tolkien books is their favourite one. James Stoddard, author of The High House whose first chapter you can read here and The False House, when asked that question said ‘Is this a trick question? The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece in so many ways. I recently listened to a reading of the trilogy on CD. Despite having read the book five or six times, I was amazed at how it kept my attention. Only the Council of Elrond chapter flags a bit for me. I see the work differently every time I read it. I thought Sam a silly fellow when I read the book as a fifteen-year-old; now his constant loyalty invariably moves me. But the best part of many excellent scenes is at the Crossroads–the thrown down head of the statue of the ancient king, garlanded with flowers, a single ray of sunlight shining on the shattered visage. ‘They cannot conquer forever,’ Frodo says, and my eyes always unexpectedly mist over. It is the book’s theme, captured in four words. Brilliant.’

Donna R. White’s A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature is examined by Robert: ‘The prospect of an adult discussion of some of my favorite childhood authors has great appeal, if only because it legitimates my occasional re-reading of Alan Garner and Lloyd Alexander as an adult. Although my adult self wishes to quarrel with certain aspects of their interpretation of the Mabinogi (a series of Welsh tales told orally for centuries and then written down in various forms), their work undeniably had a great impact on how I came to view the world, at least the best parts of it. White delivers a very competent discussion of both Garner and Alexander, particularly the influence of poet Robert Graves‚ White Goddess on both authors, and includes enough interview material to satisfy adult fans looking for a reason to revisit these works.’

Scott has for us a review of Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings, a book that has some serious flaws. Michael Perry’s book is a mixed bag for him: ‘Perry intends the book to serve as a reference to The Lord of the Rings, enabling the reader to get a better sense of what events happened simultaneously in the story, where in Tolkien’s writings a particular event is described, and a deeper appreciation of the structural coherence of Tolkien’s work. Untangling Tolkien generally succeeds in these regards, especially the latter; this book is essentially an exposition on Tolkien’s attention to chronological detail. Unfortunately, the book also gives every appearance of having been put together in great haste, as though the publishers were more concerned with releasing the book by a certain date than with presenting the best possible book.’

Warner brings us a new take on an old fairy tale in Leife Shalcross’ The Beast’s Heart: ‘The retelling of fairy tales is a time honored tradition. As a result, Leife Shallcross’s The Beast’s Heart is in excellent company. This volume attempts to do a perspective flip, by focusing upon the Beast of Beauty and the Beast rather than a more usual view of following the young woman. It is a clever decision, as the character is not quite an antagonist and thus somewhat easier to make sympathetic, but it’s still an unexpected point of view for such a tale.’


Robert takes a look back at one of the ‘new’ James Bond films, Skyfall: ‘Full disclosure: I was an early James Bond fan, and saw all of the early films. Then, as happens sometimes with early enthusiasms, I lost track of them, but did give myself a treat one Christmas Eve and caught the remake of Casino Royale with Daniel Craig. After that, it was probably pretty much a given that I’d be up for Skyfall, the next release in the saga — Daniel Craig and Judi Dench: how could you go wrong?’


Jen revisits the Indiana Dunes home of an environmentalist family friend with a heartwarming dish of potatoes rough-cooked with chipotle peppers and garlic. Her ymmmy recipe can be found thisaway.


For all you Dr. Who fans out there — you know who you are — Cat has a look at what may be the ultimate Dr. Who comic: The Thirteenth Doctor, The Many Lives of Doctor Who: ‘So being interested in what they’d published, I purchased the one that appears to be the first in the series. What it turned out to be is a rather interesting way to bring delight to fans of the series by giving them a conversation that spanned all Thirteen Doctors and many of the Companions in a manner that was both fun and refreshingly well-done for this sort of comic.’


Nearly twenty years ago, Barb went to see Childsplay at the Street Church in Portland, Maine:‘Imagine anywhere from 21 to 28 fiddlers/violin players on one stage with a rhythm section, throw in a random banjo or wooden flute … sound like a party?’ Childsplay is still holding these annual concerts twenty years later,  this past year saw them undertake a Pacific Northwest tour.

Joe K. Walsh, a talented mandolinist, singer and songwriter in the progressive stringband vein, has released his debut solo CD. ‘Borderland is full of excellent ensemble music all around, with solid contributions from all involved,’ Gary says.

Iain looks at an opera based on a Grimm story:  ‘Philip Glass, one of my favourite composers, and his fellow composer Robert Moran, whom I had not encountered before, collaborated magnificently in equal measure on the composition of The Juniper Tree. Each Glass scene is followed by a Moran scene, with transitions composed by each. The result works a lot better than I expected, though the styles of each composer are quite different and neither surrenders anything of his own identity. If you like Glass, you’ll want to hear this opera.’

Let Kim calm the frisson of fear that might steal up your spine upon reading the words ’12th century chants, 21st century sounds.’ With her review of Garmarna’s Hildegard von Bingen, she assures you that you don’t have to worry about the commercial appropriation of Gregorian chants; rather, you can look forward to ‘a powerful interpretation of medieval music brought forward through astonishing vocals and accompaniment, that for the most part, really work.’

Lars finishes off his review of McDermott’s 2 Hours’ Besieged by saying ‘I could go through the record track by track, but just believe me, If you are looking for something powerful, with good singing and musicianship, variation, catching melody lines this could be for you. Highly enjoyable.’ Now go read his full review to see why he say this.

Vonnie finishes out our music reviews with a look at an album in which they returned to their roots with a collaborator: ‘June  Tabor has reunited with the Oysterband for a second album, Ragged Kingdom and the two suit each other better now than when the first album, Freedom and Rain, made in 1991. Considering that the first album was magnificent, many of us had high expectations for this album. It a very different creature, and very good.’


Our What Not comes courtesy of Terri Windling, author of The Wood Wife, who had a charming essay back one May on a favourite subject around the Kinrowan Estate, as our in-house journal’s aptly named The Sleeping Hedgehog: ‘It’s Hedgehog Awareness Week, sponsored by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. I adore hedgehogs…’, so she shares some of her favourite hedgie photos and gives us a look at them in myth and folklore down the centuries. You can read it here.


Now what shall I leave you with for music? Let’s see what sounds cool… So how about the  ‘Red Barn Stomp’ which is  a traditional sounding tune by the Oysterband that was actually composed by band member John Jones? It was performed in Minneapolis in 1991.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 3rd of March: Bond, Beast, Dr. Who, Hedgehogs and other late winter matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Queen’s Law


Morgan ap Owen, Estate Head Gardener, in his Journals from the mid Seventeenth century tells the tale of why Fey law, Queens’ Law, is binding on humans as well. (It is not binding on cats on either side of the Border, but that’s a story for another night as the fire gets low and the whiskey takes full effect.) He said that ‘The Fey had many realities, but only one one True Ruler: The Summer Queen, as The Winter King holds his title at her sufferance.’ And Queens’ Law, Morgan said, ‘was harsh but fair.’

A visitor, a young male from the Riverrun Estate, had noticed and fallen in, not love, but certainly more than mere lust with what he took to be a Fey woman of his own age. (She was in fact many centuries old but still considered a child.) He thought she liked him. She said she did and claimed sanctuary here. The Queen was not amused. She asked for and got both sent over The Border to her. Then she showed the male just how old his prospective mate was. And that he would soon just be but a toy to her to be discarded when he grew old. He was rightfully appalled. And rather frightened!

She applied Queens’ Law on both of them. The Fey ‘child’ was banned from crossing the Border ever again. And Her law is binding: crossing the Border would have meant death by her becoming mortal, stripped of her magic. She was merciful on him: she stripped him of his memories concerning all things Fey and placed a Binding on him to keep him any future knowledge of the Fey. No star-crossed lovers would they be longing across a Border they cannot cross.


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Queen’s Law

What’s New for the 24th of February: Food and Drink Edition

Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give
all my fame for a pot of ale and safety.—  Henry V


Over the years, we’ve reviewed a lot of food and drink related material here, from novels that had food as an allegory for sex (and the subsequent movie was damn hot) to  SF authors that wrote amazing space operas, who sort of conned their publisher into financing  them in exploring the great whisky distilleries of Scotland. So we’ve decided without further ado to select many of those reviews to be showcased here.


Denise revisits her review of Anthony Bourdain’s The Nasty Bits for this special edition. ‘To keep things on the up-n-up, I must confess this is a re-print of the piece I wrote back in ’06. I could change tenses, and/or mention Bourdain’s passing, but I’m still in denial. So here ’tis, unsullied by the march of time. Rest ye well, Tony.’ Read her review for her look at this collection of essays by a master chef and traveler.


OK, I must offer up one of our favourite food reviews ever which is the Two Fat Ladies DVD set. If ever there was a series that felt like it was Autumn all the time, it is that one Kathleen and her sister Kage wrote up. The series documented that they were brilliant English cooks who rode a motorcycle with a sidecar, drank excessively, smoked whenever they pleased and cooked using bloody great hunks of meat, butter and anything else that isn’t ‘tall good for you. And funny as all Hell as well which indeed the review is too.

PRichard has this book for us: ‘Admittedly, most consumers of ice cream wouldn’t care if the first ice cream cone sprang, fully formed, from the forehead of Zeus, but for those who are actually curious about where their double-dip hot fudge sundaes originated – and who don’t want to read a tome the size of a cinderblock – there’s Ivan Day’s slender Ice Cream.’

Kelly takes a look this week at Sara Perry’s The Tea Deck. She says, ‘As the now almost mythical door-to-door encyclopedia salesman knew, the opportunity to sell your product goes up exponentially once you’ve gotten it into the hands of a customer.’ How does this relate to a Tea Deck… and just what the hell is one?

Meanwhile Stephen has something more boozy he looks at: ‘And so I address myself to the matter in hand, the very pleasant task of reviewing Raw Spirit — In Search of The Perfect Dram by Iain Banks, “Uber-MAB” and (according to The Times) “the most imaginative British novelist of his generation.” The central premise of the book is that the author undertakes a mammoth road-trip around Scotland, tours its numerous distilleries, and recounts his adventures and experiences along the way. Given that Banks’ four principal passions appear to be writing, the driving of exotic four and two-wheeled machinery, whisky and his native land, this, as he cheerfully admits, is a “cushy” gig.’


Cat R. looks at some candy that is a favourite of hers: ‘Having recently discovered that my favorite gummi bears were possibly made with child labor, I went looking for a substitute recently and picked up a bag of Albanese Mini Gummi Butterflies.’  Now go read her insightful look at what makes for a great candy treat.

Sanchis Mira Turron de Alicante also gets reviewed by Cat R: ‘This candy is a Christmas delicacy in Spain, a dense honey and almond brittle with a generous helping of the latter (the label says at least 60% almond.) The company, based in Alicante, Spain, is well-established, having been turning out the product along with other sweet treats since 1863 and this candy will definitely have a nostalgic appeal for some folks with a Hispanic heritage.’

Chris has something to warm up with, and an extra treat as well, when he brings us a look at Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate and Ghirardelli’s Dark Twilight Delight and Peppermint Bark. Both, he thinks, are a bit decadent and maybe the least little bit self-indulgent, but you’re worth it.

Ahhh beer infused beef jerky.  Denise dives into a bag of Righteous Felon Jerky Cartel’s Victorious B.I.G. Beef Jerky, and in-between licking the bag for stray crumbs, managed to write a review. ‘…this collaboration is all PA, and it feels like a match made in beer and beef heaven.’ Want to know more? Read her review!

Gary reports back from the wilds of New Zealand on an exotic candy treat: RJ’s Licorice Choc Twists. ‘As soon as I bit into one, I was hooked. They’re fat little chunks of licorice twist, about 1.5 inches long, with milk chocolate filling the hole in the middle of the tube. Though soft, the licorice gives a very satisfying little “pop” when you bite into it. It’s very good licorice, though you wouldn’t call it “gourmet.” And the chocolate likewise is just good enough.’

Jen is without doubt a quite amazing baker as her offering this week demonstrates: ‘This cake is a real punch in the mouth—extreme chocolate and extreme lemon. Because I’m extremely lazy and because Ghirardelli makes that lovely brownie mix in a box, I use their mix, adding only an extra egg and using butter, but you can go nuts and use your own recipe. Remember that butter is your friend, beating the batter is a no-no, and flouring the pan with cocoa helps make it OMG. I serve it in very small slices with hot tea.’

Back at the dawnatime when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the Klingons were the enemy, Asian-style cooking became fashionable. Jen shares a recipe for Hot Pepper Chicken and Smoked Oysters that she came up with, using those fun ingredients we could barely pronounce back then.

Robert looks back to days of yore, and the ultimate Chicago-style pizza, now at your grocer’s frozen food section: Gino’s East Classic Sausage Patty Frozen Pizza: ‘Once upon a time, late in my college career and for some time therafter, one of the places we used to go for a good, relatively inexpensive meal was a restaurant called Gino’s, on Rush Street on Chicago’s Near North Side. It was down a short flight of stairs from the street, dimly lit, usually crowded, and sort of rough around the edges — a perfect student place. It also served what was arguably the best Chicago-style pizza ever: deep dish, loaded with toppings, and one pizza would feed a party of four, even in the hungry days of our youth.’

And from the other side of the world, but available nearby, is Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala Frozen Entree, for those who don’t always have time to cook: ‘I decided I had to check out Trader Joe’s, not without some misgivings — I had checked out Whole Foods a while back and left reeling at the prices. But an acquaintance works there, and he said I should give it a try. I got stopped at the frozen foods section when I ran across the Indian dinners, which were quite reasonably priced — about $3.50 each. They had three varieties in stock, so I grabbed a couple of the Chicken Tikka Masala entrees.’

And of course, there’s chocolate the top it all off. (Gotta have our chocolate.) Robert has some tasty treats: Green & Black’s Organic Milk Chocolate, Organic Maya Gold and Organic Bittersweet Dark Chocolate: ‘The provenance of the name, “Green & Black’s,” should be obvious: organic chocolate with a dark, rich color and flavor.’


Our single music review this outing is Randy Armstrong’s Dining On The Diner which has the dubious honour of being the first recording that got legal action threatened by the artist against us for defamation. Big Earl, a Canadian baker, just wasn’t pleased with either the music or the recipes in the booklet. And no, we didn’t get sued and so here’s the review for you to read!


Our What Not this time is our oft asked question about what a favored libation is. Kathleen Bartholomew, sister of the late sf writer Kage Baker and a fine writer as well,  waxes nostalgic:  ‘Nova Albion of blessed memory – a bright copper, richly hopped ale with an aftertaste of roses. But in the world of beers I can actually get my hands on … maybe Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, full of fresh new Zealand hops. Or Lagunitas Censored Ale. Or even the venerable Bass Ale — served room temperature, of course. With straw floating on the top. I like hops…’


And for a Coda to this edition, what could be more fitting than a paean to “Food, Glorious Food!” From the film Oliver!:

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 24th of February: Food and Drink Edition

A Kinrowan Estate story: A Hungarian Hamper


If you’ve got a bit of time to spare, I could use your help! Remember me mentioning a couple of weeks ago that the fellow violinists in the Huddled Masses Violin Ensemble (at their reunion somewhere in central Europe) insisted on giving Béla, our resident Balkan violinist, lots of ‘creature comforts’? And that he shipped them back here via the Orient Express? Well, they arrived en masse this week… It took the porters at the station hours to load them onto the delivery van and bring them to our offices. Large crates with scribbling in languages long forgotten, casks of ale from breweries once thought mythical, and other goodies that made the kitchen staff literally weep with joy. But now it’s time to inventory all of it, so grab the clipboard and pen over there and I’ll start telling you what we got…

Besides Barack pálinka, a Hungarian apricot brandy, here’s two crates of Velkopopovicky kozel, a wonderful award-winning Czech beer that goes well with the Czech traditional eventide meal of roasted pork, cabbage and dumplings. Béla raved about it. Ahhh, nice — note that several bottles of a Lithuanian vodka (Baalta) are here too. And I see some very good Retsiona over here.

Moving on from libations… Looks like this box was carefully packed to avoid jarring the contents in transit. What’s here? Cooking chocolate. And not just any cooking chocolate, but French Le Noir Gastronomie, a bittersweet chocolate that our baker will use in making cheesecake! Speaking of cheese, I see several whole rounds of Gorau Glas, a rare and costly Welsh cheese, as well as several large jars of a traditional Hungarian liptauer cheese spread. Yummm! Hmmm… Smell the garlic? That’s from the Hungarian kolbasz in this basket — heavy on garlic and paprika. Look, even better: kovbasa, spicy Ukranian sausage patties! Those should be good… perhaps in a hearty soup.

We’d better sample the Velkopopovicky kozel… And I thought there was more lekvar, but I don’t see it…


Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: A Hungarian Hamper

What’s New for the 17th of February: A Bevy of Nordic Recordings, Live Music from Skerryvore, Gaiman’s Books of Magic and Other Wonderful Things

Everyone thinks of them in terms of poisoned apples and glass coffins, and forgets that they represent girls who walked into dark forests and remade them into their own reflections.

Seanan McGuire’s Indexing


I’ve been reading Haunted England, which is the work of Jennifer Westwood, who notes in Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain that ‘legend-making is not something that took place in the dim and distant past but a continuing process.’ We’ve reviewed more books than I care to count where authors such as Jane Yolen (The Wild Hunt), Pamela Dean (Tam Lin), Charles de Lint (The Cats of Tanglewood Forest) and Terri Windling (The Wood Wife) use folkloric stories and give a fresh feel to them.

We all tell stories, too, as it’s an intrinsic aspect of we do. How we tell a Story is shaped by who we are and what we know, say that cup of Mexican cocoa your housemate made for you when you came in on a cold,  stormy evening because that’s how you like it, or that new novel sought out by you in hard cover because that’s how you wanted to read it, has a story behind that decision as well.

Those are some of the stories we all tell. Green Man is a set of stories told by everyone who has been a part of it down the many decades. If you decide to email us, your comments become of that story too. Now let’s see what we’ve got for you this edition…


Gary looks at a perennial favorite of lots of us: ‘The long and colorful publishing history of Tolkien’s The Hobbit continues with a new edition that seems to be aimed at reclaiming the written version of the story as a way to introduce it to young readers. It’s a handsome hardcover book with illustrations by the young Jemima Catlin, who was hand-picked for the assignment by the Tolkien Estate.’

Lory says of this mystery series: ‘Before there was Lyra Belacqua, there was Sally Lockhart. Prior to creating the unforgettable Lyra of The Golden Compass and its blockbuster sequels, Philip Pullman was perhaps best known for his trio of books featuring another kick-ass female: a pistol-packing, checkbook-balancing, mystery-solving Victorian orphan. I adored these books as a teenager (like Sally herself, I was sixteen when the first volume was published), but hadn’t read them in years when the chance came to review them for GMR. Would they still be as compelling as I remembered, half a lifetime later?’

Richard has this lead-in to a classic English work of fantasy: ‘The first fully fledged novel in the Robert Holdstock’s epic novel cycle is Mythago Wood. The book, which first saw print in 1984 (though part of it appeared earlier in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction) is awash in both the Oedipal struggle and the Jungian subjective unconscious. At its heart, it’s a tale of family struggle. Sons war against each other for the love of a woman, and both struggle against their monstrous, inhuman father. Or so it seems.’ And though he’s doesn’t note it in that review, he does note in later reviews of other novels in the series that Mythago Wood is a character unto itself.

Desiring an engaging and lengthy fantasy for your Winter reading? Robert has the work for you: ‘I was surprised some while back to discover that Patricia A. McKillip’s Riddle-Master Trilogy was marketed as young-adult fantasy when it was first published. I don’t think I’m particularly backward in terms of understanding what I read, and I was in my thirties when I first read the books (which have earned an unchallengeable place on my “reread frequently” list), and I knew there were things I was missing. Even in a recent re-reading, the trilogy is a complex, subtle and evocative story that lends itself to much deeper examination than one might expect.


And something a little out of the ordinary for our film selection this week — but only a little. Robert has some comments on the Bleach Movie 2: The Diamond Dust Rebellion: ‘The Diamond Dust Rebellion is the second animated feature based on Tite Kubo’s very popular manga series, Bleach. It won’t leave you as completely at sea as did Memories of Nobody if you’re not familiar with the series, but the more you know, the more fun you’ll have.’


Robert brings us a look at several takes on a new series with the first being the writer’s own: ‘Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic — the original story, not the series — began when DC Comics approached Gaiman about doing a series that would bring together the “magic” characters of the DC Universe. Gaiman created the character of Timothy Hunter, a twelve-year-old boy who has the potential to become the greatest magician of the age — our age.’

And we continue with John Ney Rieber’s continuation of the series: ‘John Ney Rieber’s continuation of Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic is a complex, multilayered story that focuses not so much on Gaiman’s mythic connections (although they are there in full measure) as on Tim Hunter: finding his magic, and his bearings in the world(s) he inhabits is intimately tied in with growing up, which Tim does a lot of in this series.’

And finally, Robert brings us his take on the ‘update,” Si Spencer’s The Books of Magick: Life During Wartime: ‘Life During Wartime represents a distinct break with The Books of Magic as it had been developed by Neil Gaiman and John Ney Rieber. Si Spencer, working with Gaiman, “updated” the characters and took them into a new set of trials that speak strongly to a contemporary audience.’


April recommends Groove — ‘A sextet from Sweden, Hoven Droven live up to their name, which roughly translates to ”Helter Skelter.” To call their music merely sprightly would be an insult; to say they are just energetic, a gross understatement. The eighteen instrumental tracks on this compilation seem to quite literally pulse with vibrant life and energy, driven by Kjell-Erik Eriksson’s fierce (or one might say fearsome) fiddle playing, and embellished by instruments as diverse as flugelhorn, Harjedals-flute, saxophone and congas. Lest one assume though, that they are all sound and fury, with little or no talent, never fear, the music is never bombastic, but crisp, clean and well played.’

Brendan has a tasty recording from Finland for your consideration: ‘JPP — short for Järvelän Pikkupelimannit (” Little Folk Musicians of Järvelä”) — originally formed in 1983 as a local fiddle orchestra in the small town of Järvelä, Finland. Formed around the nucleus of 3 fiddlers, including leader Arto Järvelä, a harmonium player, and a bass player, they spent most of the Eighties and early Nineties gathering a devoted following in Finland and across the world and the reputation of being particularly inventive interpreters of Finland’s rich folk heritage. With the publication of Kaustinen Rhapsody, JPP proved itself to be excellent performers of contemporary music as well.’

Michael  looks at Karelia Visa — ‘A previous Hedningarna CD that I had the pleasure of hearing (Kaksi!) had far more of a folk-rock feel, which I believe is more typical of the band’s style. On this album, however, they have chosen to interpret the pieces in a more traditional, acoustic style. This may be due to the respect they afford the material, which is localised to the Karelia region, on the border between Finland and Russia.’

Scott has a look at two albums by a then young Nordic group, Frigg — namely, their Live album and a new studio album, Economy Class: ‘With their self-titled debut CD and their sophomore effort Oasis, Frigg have quickly established themselves as the best young band in Nordic folk music. . . . With an independently released live album from last year and a brand new CD called Economy Class released in Europe over the summer (Northside will release it in the U. S. in October), the core septet have been augmented by a number of frequently recurring guest musicians, including some vocalists. The basic concept of Frigg remains unchanged, though, as does their commitment to quality output.’


It’s several weeks past Candlemas so there’s definitely a feel that we’re headed towards Spring even if Winter is still holding us in Her grip. So let’s see I can find some spritely music to see out off this Edition. So how about ‘The Ginger Grouse Jigs’ recorded at the Shetland Folk Festival six years ago on a warm Summer evening by Skerryvore? This Scots band came together sixteen years ago and is quite splendid indeed.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 17th of February: A Bevy of Nordic Recordings, Live Music from Skerryvore, Gaiman’s Books of Magic and Other Wonderful Things

A Kinrowan Estate story: The Wood Between The Worlds


Guðmundsdóttir, our resident expert on The Wild Wood that forms an impossibly large region of this Scottish Estate, has a new theory on what is and why it contains literally multitudes of very queer things from Herne the God of The Wood to whole communities that look a thousand years behind now. Her theory as given over a late evenings worth of Winter Ale is something she calls The Wood Between The Worlds.

She first noticed something wasn’t quite right an late autumn afternoon several years back when she heard a commotion headed towards her. For quite sometime nothing was visible but then she saw a fox with a white blaze across her face running well ahead of a mounted hunter in leathers. What was really odd was that the fox never attempted to lose the hunter but instead stopped when it looked like the hunter would lose the fox in the denser areas of the woods. She soon lost track of both of them and went back to cataloguing botanical specimens.

Guðmundsdóttir asked for another summer ale before continue on to tell the oddest tale of all. She’d been here long enough that she had an intuitive feel for the geography of the Wild Wood that allowed her to know where she was without thinking about it, so she was very surprised one evening (and yes, evenings were when things were out really odd there) near summer solstice when she had no idea where she was. She looked around for something familiar but there was nothing at all.

Not even the trees were right as the season was clearly late fall and not the midsummer it was in her world. And once again, there was a female red fox with a white blazer across her face watching her as she had so many other times in her world. The fox looked at her and obviously wanted here to follow her which Gutmansdottir did which brought her back into her world.

She watched in amazement as the fox clearly turned into a woman with a silver streak through her short cut red hair. Dressed in a green skirt, she wore a circlet of silver around her head and her carriage was that of royalty, so Guðmundsdóttir bowed to her and our Summer Queen nodded to her in turn. Gutmansdottir left her standing there in the dying sun as she walked towards Kinroean Hall.

So the Wild Wood might truly be the Wood Between The Worlds.


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: The Wood Between The Worlds

What’s New for the 10th of February: Really Small Libraries, Joni Mitchell does William Butler Yeats, The Dubliners in Concert and Other Fine Matters

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

William Butler Yeats


Ahhhh, cinnamon buns. Yes that’s the heavenly smell coming from the Kitchen this cold Winter morning, when a tasty treat would warm both the body and spirit of just about anyone, I’d think. These cinnamon buns are courtesy of a Several Annie from Sweden by the name of Tindra who was apprenticed here under one of my predecessors nigh well over a century ago.

She claimed that the recipe has been handed down from mother to daughter for generations beyond counting, along with how to make proper cardamom coffee. Yes I know that’s a Turkish coffee tradition but family customs are oft times complicated, aren’t they?

So if you drop by here this morning by whatever means possible,  you’ll find those cinnamon buns and her cardamom coffee waiting for you. If a certain traveler can make it here from really distant shores, so can you.


Christopher Finch’s Jim Henson: The Works: The Art, The Magic, The Imagination gets a well- deserved review by Cat: ‘This is another authorised project by the Jim Henson Company making it akin to Imagination Illustrated which I reviewed here. It’s even copyrighted by Jim Henson Productions! Unlike that book, it actually covers the life of Jim from birth, in a nifty little laid-in booklet. That’s after not one but three introductions by Harry Belafonte, Frank Oz, and Candice Bergen. Belafonte and Bergen were just two of the many, many actors who appeared on The Muppet Show.’

Cat also has a review of Kage Baker’s Ancient Rockets: Treasures and Trainwrecks of the Silent Screen: ‘This volume collects what was obviously a labor of love by Kage (which I can confirm as we had ongoing email based conversations while she was writing these) and kept them up even as her health declined badly in her last months among us. Kathleen has done us a service by editing this collection of the Tor columns in a volume you can read with considerable enjoyment and actually learn something really interesting at the same time!’

Grey says of Medicine Road that ‘I suppose it’s fitting, for a story about twos, that the creators are two Charleses. Charles Vess’s illustrations make this not-so-simple fable deeper and richer. Vess combines line drawing and painting in a way that makes his pictures simultaneously vividly life-like and fairy tale-remote.’

There’s a bar in the above novel where the Dillard sisters play called A Hole in The Wall, which de Lint borrowed from Terri Windling’s The Wood WifeIt’s possible that The Wood Wife is the first novel  to take full advantage of the myths of Southwest USA and Mexican region. And Grey notes that it is ‘not only an expertly-crafted tale of suspense. It also stands squarely within the realm of modern fantasy. Windling’s Arizona desert comes alive with fey beings, shapeshifters small and great that are as mysterious and amoral as any European Fair Folk, yet practical and earthy and distinctively Native American in their coloration.’

Kage, author of The Company series featuring  time traveling cyborg immortals who love chocolate, was a great film fan as you can see from Cat’s review of her Ancient Rockets collection above and it’s no wonder she liked this film: ‘Blessed with a cast that included Sir Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being, David Warner as Evil, and Sean Connery as King Agamemnon (and a fireman), Time Bandits is a classic magical adventure story in the mold of E. Nesbit’s books, but with an updated edge and a sharper sense of humor. Unlike most candy-coated parables handed out to kids, it tells no lies and ends in a brutal and surprisingly exhilarating way.’


Denise dives into Heavy Seas Brewing’s Blackbeard’s Breakfast Salted Caramel Porter, a limited edition brew that adds a touch of candy to their popular porter. What’d she think? ‘I can add one more to the very short list of barrel age-ers that I will definitely seek out. Salted Caramel (let’s just call it BBSC) is a delightful, complex and decidedly friendly porter that will please the palate of any dark beer lover.’ Read her review to find out why she’s a fan!


Robert brings us a light-hearted comic about what could be the end of humanity. Seriously: ‘The Griff, scripted by Christopher Moore and Ian Corson, and drawn by Jennyson Rosero, is a story of the Apocalypse, told while said Apocalypse is happening. It was developed, we are told, from the script for a film — Corson is a film director — that Moore and Corson realized was never going to be made. And here it turned out to be ideal for a comic.

PGary enjoyed a big new four-CD set of folk music from around the world from Smithsonian Folkways. ‘The theme of the set is revealed by its title The Social Power of Music as it looks at the way music affects the lives of individuals and social groups all over the world. It’s primarily drawn from American music but includes a generous sampling of music from other traditions worldwide.’

Mike sees a legendary group: ‘The Dubliners are true legends of folk music, having now performed together as a group for 44 years. Many of the stories they tell of Dublin, are of a city that has all but disappeared in this day and age, and they are now as much a part of folklore as the songs and tunes that they perform.’

Robert has a look at a master musician, Keith Jarrett, as revealed in Radiance: ‘Keith Jarrett is a remarkable example of the phenomenon of the performer/composer. Although he is generally considered a jazz pianist — one of the finest — I first became acquainted with his work through his recordings of the twentieth century repertoire, as soloist in works by composers such as Colin McPhee and Lou Harrison. I guess that just goes to show that Jarrett has small patience with categories.’

A Welsh band live once caught the ear of Vonnie: ‘Crasdant plays music to warm your heart and tells tales to tickle your funnybone. This Welsh band played on a wet windy night that, they said, reminded them of home. The two sets of instrumental music for flute, harp, fiddle, and guitar, with an impressive bit of clog dancing thrown in were varied and fascinating, and the evening was over too soon. The concert was part of the excellent Celtic music calendar put together by Music-For-Robin, in the same venue as Pipeline.’


Who doesn’t love a library? No matter how big or small, a place where books are housed is always a comfort. In Coeru d’Alene, Idaho, there’s a library that may not be big, but is most welcome in the world. Made from the still substantial stump of a black cottonwood tree, this library looks as if Celtic sprites met Hobbits from The Lord of the Rings, and decided to combine their design expertise and make a snug book bolt-hole. Atlas Obscura visited this ‘Little Free Library’, and the photos are simply stunning. I wish I lived there, if only to visit that library a few times a month. Oh who am I kidding; a few times a week.


So what shall I leave you with for music on this this Winter day? What does tickles my fancy? So how about ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ by Joni Mitchell as performed by her on the fifth of August twenty one years ago on Max Yasgur’s Farm In Bethel New York? Yes it’s the Yeats poem done rather tastefully.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 10th of February: Really Small Libraries, Joni Mitchell does William Butler Yeats, The Dubliners in Concert and Other Fine Matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: A Library Story, Or Why Indexes Have Nervous Breakdowns


The indexes were quietly sobbing again in protest as the librarian’s apprentice misfiled ‘McZweygle, Doris F., A Receipt Book for the Proper Preparation, Garnishing, and Serving of the Salmon of Wisdom‘ (sadly, the magic charm of the traditional Alphabet Song can only extend its power so far), while the library ladder looked on with its characteristic air of mockery, gleefully anticipating the inevitable row which would occur when the Master Librarian returned. During the previous week’s dust-up a transformation spell had gone quite astray, with the result that most of the objects in the library had been left feeling out of sorts and unsettled.

The indexes, poor things, felt the disorder most keenly and their restless rufflings had even spooked one of the library cats (although, to be fair, why a cat suddenly levitates straight up into the air and teleports itself from a room, well … ours is not to reason why).

When the librarian’s apprentice misfiled ‘Ware-Elfrinke, Basil, On the Particulars of Lexomancy and the Care of Cataloguing Systems for Magical Libraries,’ a soft sound — something between a sigh and a shuddering breath — shivered faintly upon the slightly dusty air of the library. Master Librarian Mackenzie claimed that the dust in the library represented the knowledge which sticks to the persistent and undaunted scholar.

The librarian’s apprentice, who was slightly allergic to dust and had a special filter for his vacuum cleaner in order to keep his own tiny room dust-free, sneezed three times in quick succession before continuing on with his shelving duties.

As the afternoon waned and the anticipated return of the Master Librarian drew ever nigh, the pair of gargoyle bookends on the Master Librarian’s desk began to nervously furl and unfurl their wings, and the library ladder practically wriggled in a paroxysm of anticipatory delight….


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: A Library Story, Or Why Indexes Have Nervous Breakdowns

What’s New for the 3rd of February: Pulitzer Prize winning poets, Rhetorics of Fantasy, Sipping Chocolate, Live Music by Philip Glass, Sonic Screwdrivers, Jelly Babies, Gruagachs and other matters

She was the greatest American writer of her generation. Her work deepened, expanded and challenged my expectations of literature, awed me with the power of an unfettered imagination, and obliged me to sympathize with and understand  — and in some stunning measure belong to —cultures and societies far removed in space, time, and even biology from my own. — Michael Chabon on Ursula Le Guin


You can finally see the extra light during the day here which is nice as it’s still bloody fucking cold with temperatures below minus ten centigrade and nasty winds outside to boot. Several of the staff are suffering bad colds which have the Kitchen staff treating them to their special chicken soup (staff made noodles, heavy on garlic and Estate mushrooms) and Mrs. Ware swears by whiskey toddies so I’ve had to break out the bottle of not too expensive whiskey that serves just fine for that purpose.

Series like Doctor Who are interestng in cultural sense as they are generators of pop culture in a way that’s amazing. If you look behind the bar here in the Green Man Pub, you’ll see a TARDIS  and a Thirteenth Doctor figure on a shelf there along with the jelly babies I mentioned lastioned last week. All came courtesy of that visitor who stayed here with us recently. Nice lady, brilliant conversationalist.


Given we’ve got a quote about le Guin, we can hardly not have a review of some of her fiction, so Cat has a look at something truly awesome which is  The Selected Short Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin: ‘The Found and the Lost is a complete collection of all thirteen of her novellas, while The Unreal and the Real, being published for the first time in a single, hardcover volume, brings together thirty-nine of her best-regarded short stories.’

Chuck says ‘Various Internet sources define a gruagach as a creature similar to brownie. In these tales, however — and Robin Williamson claims to draw from traditional Irish and Highland Scottish sources — a gruagach is a wizard, long of hair and beard, often red-haired, and usually malevolent. Williamson shows of his storytelling and story-composing talents on this double CD set, Four Gruagach Tales, telling of these wizards and those who dare to go up against them.’

Elizabeth exclaims that ‘Liz Williams creates the perfect second book in a series. While maintaining the best elements of the first book, The Demon and the City also maintains a distinctiveness in character, plot, and focus that makes reading it a different, albeit no less enjoyable, experience than Snake Agent.

Lory’s review of Farah Mendlesohn’s Rhetorics of Fantasy which is an in-depth academic study of the fantasy genre, and discovers that academia and genre literature aren’t natural enemies after all: ‘Farah Mendlesohn takes fantasy seriously. Other scholars may tend to skip over the genre, or feel the need to explain or excuse their focus on popular fiction, but she takes for granted the worthiness of a body of literature which relies on the creation of a sense of wonder.’

Robert brings us a look at a Pulitzer Prize winning collection from a distinguished American poet: ‘Jorie Graham has been honored in just about every way it is possible for America to honor a poet, including the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for The Dream of a Unified Field, a selection of poems from 1974 to 1994. . . . She has been called “a European poet transplanted to America,” and speaks in a manner “that is both lush and hauntingly other.”’


Chris has something to warm up with, and an extra treat as well, when he brings us a look at Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate and Ghirardelli’s Dark Twilight Delight and Peppermint Bark. Both, he thinks, are a bit decadent and maybe the least little bit self-indulgent, but you’re worth it.


Robert, with a little help, came across a comic collection that, believe it or not, won a Hugo for Best Graphic Story: ‘The very helpful and knowledgeable young man at my local comics store directed me to Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, which is one of the more bizarre examples of graphic lit I’ve run across recently.’


Larry Grenadier is an in-demand jazz double-bass player releasing his first solo album, The Gleaners. Says Gary, ‘It doesn’t necessarily follow that even the best of bassists ought to record a solo album, but Grenadier seems to have loads of ideas that translate well to such a project.’

Gary also reviews the latest release by the prolific Americana act Mandolin Orange. ‘Tides of a Teardrop is their sixth since their debut in 2010 with Quiet Little Room, all featuring songs written by Andrew Marlin and sung by Marlin and Emily Frantz.’

Robert got hold of a recording of a live performance of music by one of our favorite composers, Philip Glass. Signal performed Glassworks and Music in Similar Motion — well, as Robert explains: ‘Philip Glass’ Glassworks had never been performed in New York until the contemporary ensemble Signal asked Michael Riesman, long-time music director of the Philip Glass Ensemble, to arrange it for live performance. (It was originally conceived for the recording studio.) It was performed at (le) Poisson Rouge on April 10, 2010, resulting in, among other things, this recording.’

And in a different vein, Robert has a look at two masterpieces of the Late Romantic repertoire, César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor and Igor Stravinsky’s Pétrouchka, conducted by Pierre Monteux: ‘Pierre Monteux brings magisterial authority to these recordings. Of course, if his reading of Pétrouchka satisfied Stravinsky, I’m certainly not going to argue. Equally intelligent and adept is his reading of the Franck; in spite of the Chicago Symphony’s strongly Germanic temperament at the time (1961), the Symphony in D Minor comes across as quintessentially French. Monteux himself was one of the most respected conductors of the twentieth century, and, thanks to sound recording, is still, among classical music buffs, a household word.’


Denise takes a gander at the thirteenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. No, not the real one. se7ven20’s Thirteenth Doctor Sonic Screwdriver. And she’s excited. ‘So, my cosplayers and collectors. Is this one for the shelf? Yes. Yes it is.’ Read her review for all the details!



Our Coda this week is another live performance of music by Philip Glass, this time by the maestro himself: Philip Glass, performing at the Maison Symphonique de Montréal. The piece is titled “Mad Rush”:

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 3rd of February: Pulitzer Prize winning poets, Rhetorics of Fantasy, Sipping Chocolate, Live Music by Philip Glass, Sonic Screwdrivers, Jelly Babies, Gruagachs and other matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Danse Macabre


Greetings Anna,

You’ll be tickled to know that Jack is putting back together the Medieval music group called Danse Macabre that he had here well over twenty years ago. Of course, there’ll be new musos including my wife, Catherine, joining the ones from the first version of the group.

Danse Macabre’s been looking for a hurdy-gurdy player for quite some time now, as Jack had no trouble finding violinists, bagpipers and just the right amount of percussion in the form of hand drums, but good hurdy-gurdy players are as rare as musicians willing to play all-night dances! So he cajoled Catherine into joining his group. Finch is playing English bagpipes, specifically Leicestershire smallpipes as popularized by Julian Goodacre, Jack and Bela are the violinists, and one of my Several Annies, Justina, is skilled at hand drums, being a fan of Davy Cattanach, who played his kit by hand with the Old Blind Dogs some twenty years ago.

It’s fun to watch them play as they’re trying to avoid the achingly dull manner in which most Medieval performance groups perform, as if they’re afraid the music community will disbar them for being innovative. Instead they’re adapting the music to modern sensibilties, making it more fast-paced, more spritely than it’s typically played. They’re more akin to the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and the Turtle Island Quartet.

Like Leaf & Tree, Catherine’s other Medieval music group, they’re planning on touring next Winter in Europe. I’ll send you their press packet as soon as I’ve got it, as ideally they’d like to play several dates in Stockholm, and I know you’ve got the contacts to make it happen, having done it for Leaf & Tree.

I’ll see you in just a few days and we’ll be staying in Stockholm for at least ten days. Your teaching is over now I believe, so it’ll be fun just to hang out. Catherine’s bringing her violin along and I’ve got my concertina as she wants to all of us to do some busking just for fun.

Affectionately, Iain


Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Danse Macabre

What’s New for the 27th of January: music from Fairport Convention and Johnny Clegg, a couple of scholarly endeavors, Volsungasaga, Coconut Porter? and other unusual things

“She has her own glamour, Willy lad. All poets do, all the bards and artists, all the musicians who truly take the music into their own hearts. They all straddle the border of Faerie, and they see into both worlds. Not dependably into either, perhaps, but that uncertainty keeps them honest and at a distance.”Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks


The weather at this remote Scottish Estate turned nasty even for us last week with a steady freezing sleet and temperatures well below freezing bringing a need for the grounds crew to make sure that roofs particularly don’t getting overloaded with icy slush.

For those of us who don’t need to be outside, that means we get to help with the chores inside Kinrowan Hall. I’ve kept my hand in when I’m not working in the Pub, which I obviously do most days as Manager, by helping out in the Kitchen by playing music for them, something they very much appreciate. I’m a button box player, an instrument that as a busker I found appealing and easy to carry from place to place.

Oh those are jelly babies. A traveller with a multicoloured stripe across her T-shirt and the most interesting earrings left them behind when she left so help yourself to them. She said something rather odd I thought about previous incarnations of herself being fond of them. They’ve quite good. Now let’s see what we’ve got for you…


Chuck states that ‘When it comes to Shakespeare, everyone is entitled to an opinion. When it comes to Yale professor, MacArthur fellow, and self- confessed “Bardolater,” Harold Bloom, you’re entitled to his opinion, as well. And in the 700-plus pages of Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, you definitely get the author’s opinion.’ Read his his detailed review to see if you should investigate Bloom’s tome.

Kathleen looks at an academic endeavour worth reading: ‘Charles Butler is the author of several fantasies for children (The Fetch of Mardy Watt, The Darkling, Death of A Ghost). Having recently switched genders, she also teaches English literature at the University of the West of England. In Four British Fantasists, he surveys juvenile fantasy through the lens of his professional scholarship, in a detailed analysis of the work of four acclaimed modern writers. He has chosen Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper and Penelope Lively as his subjects, identifying them — with good reason — as shining examples of the modern Golden Age of children’s fantasy: inheritors of the traditions of both E. Nesbitt and J.R.R. Tolkien.’

A fantastic look at London is reviewed by Kestrell: ‘Don’t let the tentacles fool you — yes, China Miéville’s Kraken takes as its starting point a tentacular god of the deep reminiscent of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, but then Miéville adds to it the baroque psychogeographies of Moore and Moorcock, the whimsy of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and American Gods, the surreal imagery of a Tim Powers novel, and a dizzying barrage of geeky pop culture references, not to mention what is probably the best use of a James T. Kirk action figure ever.’

Robert brings us a look at one of those works that is at the root of modern fantasy: Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer: ‘Volsungasaga is the Norse version of the pan-Germanic epic that shows its southern persona in Das Nieblungenlied. Like so many national epics, it is a series of stories linked by a folk hero, in this case Sigurd (Siegfried in the German version) and his ancestors. Sigurd comes complete with divine ancestry (the grandson of Odin himself), childhood as an orphan, and a doom-filled destiny. (Oops — almost forgot the magic ring, the reforged sword, and the dragon.) Astute observers will recognize not only the elements of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen but also J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.’

Stephen says of an Alan Garner work , which is definitely aimed at adults, that ‘These are only the questions which I find myself considering today. When I read Thursbitch again (and I will), they may be different, as they may be for you, when you read this book. The reasons for this are that Thursbitch is a book that casts the reader as an enthralled participant, rather than a passive recipient. It is, to repeat, a mystery. It may unsettle you (if not actually give you nightmares), but you’ll love it unequivocally nonetheless.’


Johnny Clegg and & Savuka‘s Live and More DVD gets these sage words from Scott: ‘As good as the concert performance on this DVD is, and as good as the live concert I saw from Clegg’s recent American tour was, those shows are forced to compete with the memory of a night whose legend grows with each retelling. Somehow, I get the feeling that anybody who caught Johnny Clegg & Savuka during 1990, when they were quite likely the best live act on the planet, will respond to this DVD similarly.’


For this edition, Denise takes a tipple. She tries Oskar Blues Brewery’s’ Death By Coconut Irish Style Porter, and is quite literally blown away by the brew. ‘Get ready y’all, because it’s coming in hot.’ What’s this? Hot beer? Not a bit – but you’ll have to read her review to see what she’s talking about. You might get thirsty after though, fair warning.


April says ‘Melinda is Neil Gaiman and Polish artist Dagmara Matuzak’s first collaboration, and the resulting illustrated poem is a unique literary work. According to the press notes accompanying this release, Gaiman wrote the text specifically for Matuzak to illustrate, hoping for a few drawings and perhaps a painting or two, and she responded with forty-eight stunning black and white drawings and eight colour plates that delineate the harsh world Gaiman’s seven year old Melinda inhabits.’


After the critical and popular success of their 2017 self-titled double release Deer Tick Vol. 1 and Deer Tick Vol. 2, the Rhode Island rockers are back with a beguiling compilation, Gary notes. Mayonnaise is a companion piece to those previous two records, with 13 songs altogether: alternate versions of four songs from Vol. 1, six originals and three choice covers.

Gary also liked Abigail Lapell’s latest, Getaway. ‘It is a remarkably mature record — both musically and emotionally — for a young musician cutting her third album.’

While listening to And Then Comes the Night by the Mats Eilertsen Trio, Gary found himself fondly recalling a high point on his recent travels: ‘… a visit to the Royal Albatross Centre on the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, New Zealand.’

Lars looks at a recording from the Kathryn Tickell Band: ‘Air Dancing is an album full of great playing, both from the individuals and from the group as a whole. Its well produced, while at the same time the music on it has kept it freshness and shows a little roughness in its attitude. There is a nice balance between the traditional way of playing and a more modern approach to the music. It is firmly rooted in tradition, the way that tradition was portrayed on the very early Tickell albums from the 1980s, but it does not stay entirely within that tradition, but takes it further and widens the possibilities.’

Richard has high praise indeed for a Maddy Prior album; ‘Flesh & Blood is one of the finest CDs I’ve heard in years. Prior’s voice, always angelic, has never sounded better; and, with the able help of Nick Holland and Troy Donockley, she has picked material that does her vocal talents justice. Indeed, the collection is so captivating that I’ve had to take it out of my work rotation; after all, I don’t get paid to stand around and gawk dreamily to music.’


Robert seems to spend a lot of time at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History — “But there’s a lot to see,” he says.  His latest visit was to the exhibition Restoring Earth:  ‘We tend to think of museums as places that display artifacts, sometimes on the walls, sometimes in cases, with descriptions of varying degrees of completeness on labels next to the objects. . . .   The Field Museum has well gone beyond being a repository of objects, however, as evidenced by the exhibition “Restoring Earth”.’P

Our Coda this Edition is  ’Reynardine’ as performed on an August night night in 2008 by Fairport Convention at their Cropredy Festival. Consider it a reminder that Summer will return for those of us in the in Northern Hemisphere!

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 27th of January: music from Fairport Convention and Johnny Clegg, a couple of scholarly endeavors, Volsungasaga, Coconut Porter? and other unusual things

A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Library Card Catalogue


A library catalogue is an index of all bibliographic items found in a library such as the one here at Kinrowan Estate. Our catalogue covers several hundred thousand or so books, chapbooks, maps and even art. The Catalogue includes data about the physical location of items. For instance, the extensive collection of culinary-related material that the Kitchen staff has in their extensive library space (which is also their break room), the Estate Gardener’s collection is kept in his library (which includes centuries of Estate Gardener journals and gardening and animal husbandry material going back a very long time).

We even include the personal libraries of the permanent staff here so that their collections can be used by staffers. Indeed we ask them if this will be permissible when The Steward does their final hiring interview. If they enthusiastically say yes, it counts a lot towards being hired.

Any book or other item entering the permanent collection, no more than a few hundred each year as space is limited (even the Estate chapel, unused since The Restoration, is now part of the Library), is inventoried: author(s), title, subject, date, type of media and even language the works in, are all part of the information on the card.

Now that’s after a Several Annie reads the book and summarizes the contents in a single paragraph that will be entered on the card, so that Kinrowan Estate staff and visitors alike can get an idea of what the work is like. We expect a fair but opinionated summary.

That only applies to material we’ve ordered specifically for here. Works sent here unbidden that aren’t picked up for review rarely make over the threshold, as at least one community member must be enthusiastic enough about it to recommend it for inclusion. Oh, it might end up in a pile to read later or a staffer might find it worth keeping but doesn’t recommend it be added to the Library collection.

Every a decade the group of Several Annies here then get the task of checking the card catalog against the actual item. Yes, we’re making sure it’s still there, but every item has a geas, a traditional Gaelic prohibition against removal from a particular place without permission of a proper Library staffer, so items simply don’t disappear. They’re also checking to see what condition it’s in as some of the older items either need work or, in the case of heavily used books, need to be replaced if possible. That gets noted into our Master Catalogue, forty thick oversized volumes with a page for everything in the Card Catalog plus a notation on its condition. The condition and status information’s only a few lines long but it’s invaluable as a safeguard against forgetting what happened to a work that’s been here for centuries.

The Annies are assisted by the staffer who has a separate collection, say Bela whose collection is exclusively in French and Hungarian, which means the Several Annie must speak one of those languages or receive assistance from a staffer fluent in one of those tongues. Those are relatively quick tasks as there’s rarely more than a thousand volumes to be checked.

(The catalogue for Fey material we have here is maintain by Laith as only a Truebood could possibly understand the convoluted system that their Librarians use.)

And of course The Annies are learning the taxonomic structure of books and other media which means they’re assimilating the structures underlying information itself. They may never work somewhere else which has a card catalogue, hard copy or digital, but they’ll know how information is structured better than anyone who hasn’t grasped the fundamentals of it.

Now let me show you our card catalogue. It’s handcrafted out of white oak by an Estate carpenter working from plans we got in 1885 from the office of Thomas Dewey himself. He built extra space into the wall where it lives, so it’s got room enough for centuries to come…


Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Library Card Catalogue

What’s New for the 20th of January: Riverside, Spain, and other interesting things

Let the fairy tale begin on a winter’s morning, then, with one drop of blood newly-fallen on the ivory snow: a drop as bright as a clear-cut ruby, red as a single spot of claret on the lace cuff. ― Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint

It’s been quiet in the Library so I decided to read again one of my favourite novels, War for the Oaks, since my Several Annies are with Gus, our Estate Gardener sssisting him in disassembling the Winter decorations as we usually take the wreaths and such down just after we celebrate Little Christmas here as Ingrid, our Estate Steward and wife of Reynard, our Green Man Pub Manager, is Ukrainian. So she likes that it to be celebrated. You did hear the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is now superate from the Russian Orthodox Church? Interesting times are upon us.

Now where was I? Oh Emma.  Of all the novels she wrote I like Oaks best. It’s got characters in a real world setting, Minneapolis,  in a season, near midsummer, who are both strong and fragile at the same time. It’s long enough to keep me entertained for an entire evening and it’s unusually well-written for a first novel. All I want in a Winter read.

I’ve got a great Edition for you today featuring reviews of the Riverside fiction of Ellen Kushner which you haven’t read is definitely Winter treat waiting for you to be served up with cups of hot chocolate. Oh and Check out our Food and Drink section which is linked to her website where you’ll find recipies folks created of food they think would serve in the Riverside. It’s quite entertaining.


We promised you reviews and comments on Ellen Kushner’s Riverside novels, which, as it turns out, winds up being a lot of books. Where to start?

I suppose the best place is the beginning, with Swordspoint, of which Robert says “Call it “mannerpunk,” call it “fantasy,” call it what you will, it is still one of the best examples of speculative fiction I’ve ever read.’

Fast forward fifteen years or so, to The Privilege of the Sword, for further adventures of Alec, although the book is centered around his niece, Katherine Talbert, who, through no fault of her own, has become Alec’s ward. Robert says of this one ‘If Swordspoint is a perfect gem, The Privilege of the Sword is the gem in its full setting: elegant, wicked, funny, intelligent, and fluent.’

And a number of years farther along bring us to The Man With the Knives. Just to place it in the timeline, Robert notes: ‘The Man With the Knives takes us out of the City for a tale that takes place between The Privilege of the Sword and “The Death of the Duke.”’

And yet farther ahead, to a novel with a new cast of characters and a new set of complications, Kushner’s collaboration with Delia Sherman, The Fall of the Kings. Robert notes: ‘The blurbs for this book include references to Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Dunnet, Oscar Wilde – I would say, add in some of the bawdier comedies of the Elizabethans, perhaps a dose of Richard Sheridan’s brittle dialogue, and a good helping of the eroticism of Anne Bishop’s universe of the Blood (oh, and don’t forget Jane Austen’s merciless satire), and you are starting to get close – but only close.’

Just when you thought we were going to keep going ahead in time, we backtrack. Tremontaine is an anthology, of sorts, with a number of authors contributing to a collection that nonetheless maintains a coherent story line. Robert again: ‘One thing that deserves mention, given the number of people working on this story, is the stylistic consistency: if there are differences in style or diction, they are so subtle as to escape notice.’

It starts to look as though Robert was the only one to comment on Kushner’s work, but that’s not really the case. To start at the beginning once more, Vonnie gives us her thoughts on the audiobook version of Swordspoint: ‘A fantasy novel without overt fantasy elements, Swordspoint was written and now is narrated by Ellen Kushner. . . . It is a witty book, and an engaging audiobook, with a plot that plays out across the economic spectrum of a city in duels and parlor conversations, clandestine rendezvous’ of lovers or plotters, as well as lords and young ruffians jockey and maneuver for power.’

And Cat rounds off our reviews with The Swords of Riverside audiobook: ‘I discovered on Audible that [Swordspoint] was the start of forty-five hours of listening pleasure called The Swords of Riverside, which also contains, if anything so mundane can contain such superb novels, The Privilege of the Sword and The Fall of the Kings.’


Not at all well received among Neo-Pagans is a film reviewed by Michelle: ‘There’s no denying the negative stereotyping in Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches, based on Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name. It’s a guilty pleasure, watching sophisticated women degraded by a little boy whom they’ve turned into a mouse. Adults will have an easier time than the intended young audience in recognizing the satiric elements of the film, but for some viewers that may not make it more tolerable; works of art like this one contribute to the demonization of Pagans and practitioners of folk medicine historically and in our own era.’


In keeping with our book reviews this edition, Ellen Kushner has published a group of recipes that are more or less inspired by the Riverside novels.  She notes:  “On this page, you’ll find everything from recipes and menus created by fans of the series to delight the Mad Duke Tremontaine and his Riverside friends, to ones created by friends of the author to keep her at her desk.”  You can find them all here.


Gary listened to an album by the French-Israeli pianist Yonathan Avishai and his trio: ‘For such an economical package — at eight tracks and just 55 minutes, it’s practically an EP by today’s jazz CD standards — Yonathan Avishai’s Joys and Solitudes is brimming with musical riches.’

Gary also reviews Olympic Girls by New Zealand’s Tiny Ruins. Hollie Fullbrook, who fronts Tiny Ruins,’has an arresting, husky alto that makes her singing stand out immediately,’ he says.

Hedningarna’s Karelia Visa gets this comment from Kim: ‘It’s an odd thing — one of the words which keeps coming to mind when I listen to this CD is “evocative.” But that raises the question, what exactly does it evoke? And I can’t really give you an answer, as I am not of Nordic origin and have never visited the area. So, it is indeed an interesting phenomenon to listen to a CD of a Swedish band travelling to the now-Russian province of Karelia, collecting the songs from that region to include on this recording, and to find it both exotic and evocative at the same time. Ah, the mysteries of music…’

Stephen looks approvingly at Baba Yaga — ‘Annbjorg Lien is a Norwegian composer, arranger, instrumentalist, and singer, who occupies an artistic space where clumsy attempts at easy definition are irrelevant. With this CD she’s created a music in which traditional fiddle tunes are pop songs, string quartets are folk dances, electronic rhythms are an element of symphonic composition, and the sound of human breathing is both rhythm and melody.’


Our What Not this Edition is a video teaser for Snowflake Trio‘s new album. They will play a release concert for their first CD Sun Dogs January 24 at Drygate Brewery in Glasgow during Celtic Connections. The trio – flautist and singer Nuala Kennedy, genre-defying accordionist Froda Haltli and hardanger virtuoso Vegar Vårdal – combines the roots music of Ireland and Norway in unique and exciting ways. Gary’s been waiting eagerly for this release since he caught them on stage at Celtic Colours in Cape Breton Island in 2013.


For our Coda, Robert has one of his favorite, over-the-top pieces from the Romantic repertoire, and one that’s very, very Spanish: the Adagio from Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, with none other than the legendary John Wiliams on guitar:

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 20th of January: Riverside, Spain, and other interesting things

A Kinrowan Estate Story: The Living Library, Part II

I was looking down the hallway when he appeared at my shoulder, silent as smoke.

‘Ah, the little mite — he’s fast asleep, holding onto his yarn for dear life. The room’s telling him Genji Monogatari — in the original court language, it sounds like — and I ‘d guess it was too much. Hmm? Oh, yes — learned it some while back.’ He smiled again, as though at some private joke. ‘But that story is hard to follow, even for me. I’m not sure I approve of it for Pix, but Robin says he needs to learn about such things sometime, and he’s a straightforward sort of boy — he’ll ask about things he doesn’t understand. I’d just rather he ask Robin.’ He his face was a little flushed. ‘Robin can explain — um, those sorts of things — much better.’

‘Hmm. Anyway, look at the patterns in the paneling here. That thing about the root makes some sense, doesn’t it? Because of the Tree, you see: it’s the First Tree, the Tree of Knowledge. What’s that? Tcha, that’s all much later, and more than half made up. I mean, look you — the Tree’s an ash — not much in the way of edible fruit, like. Oh, they’re real — they’re still out there in one of the gardens, wandering around without a stitch on and eating figs, perfectly content. Naming things — well, he does, but I would have thought he’d have run out of things to name by now — it’s been some time. I suspect he’s naming them more than once — his memory’s not too strong, I think. He seems a bit simple, when you talk to him. Oh, what the hell — they’re happy.

‘Anyway, this Tree knows everything. It’s a very helpful Tree, or it can be — Pix uses it for his lessons. But Pix seems to be able to get through to it better than most. There are rumors, I’m told, about this Library, and I hate to tell you how many eager scholars I’ve seen turn sad and dejected when the Library just won’t cooperate. The Tree will answer any question you want to ask, but the thing about trees, though, is you have to get their attention, and it’s not always that easy. And this is a very old tree, and a bit careless of ephemera — that’s what they call us, ‘ephemera.’ Maybe that’s why they gave up on having it keep track of the books.

‘Well, they have all sorts of ways to do that now, but none of them seem to work very well. Maybe if the apprentices could remember which alphabet they’re using. . . . There was talk at one point about putting in one of those electronic things, with the little guns with red lights in them, and bar codes on the books. I remember the Annies were very much for it, and inked bar codes on their arms — sort of like wearing a campaign button. (Funny things, bar codes — I don’t understand how they actually mean anything, you know?) I seem to recall there was some controversy about it. You might ask Iain about it next time you see him in the Pub.’ The eyes were all bland innocence, but his grin made me a little uneasy. ‘I know he always has a lot of ideas about that — he’s like to go on, though.’

‘Ah! Talk of going on, listen to me. I’d best go fetch the boy and be on my way. Robin’s making a special lunch for us in the Wood, just because, he says — and that’s the best reason, don’t you think?’

He ducked into the side room and came out with the boy held close, still fast asleep — a tiny little sprite, cradled in massive arms, dark hair all tangled curls, ball of yarn clutched tight to his chest. The big man held him gently as he looked across at me, a twinkle just barely sparking his eyes. And then, with a slight bow and a cheery “sayonara!” he made his way down the hall.

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate Story: The Living Library, Part II

What’s New for the 13th of January: Americana flavoured Jazz, The Three Musketeers, a ‘dorable Thirteenth Doctor, Black-eyed peas and ham hocks, The World’s Most Famous Dinosaur, live music from Altan and other Winter treats

But you must stop playing among his ghosts — it’s stupid and dangerous and completely pointless. He’s trying to lay them to rest here, not stir them up, and you seem eager to drag out all the sad old bones of his history and make them dance again. It’s not nice, and it’s not fair. ― Patricia A. McKillip’s Winter Rose


Britain is getting one of its snowiest, most troublesome Winters in generations and that means this Scottish Estate is pretty much centred on Kinrowan Hall as the condition outside it aren’t terribly safe. So except for those folk who live in the cottages around the Estate such as Gus and his wife, most of the thirty or so residents here live in Kinrowan Hall, that ancient but throughly updated living space that’s the centre of all things here. So  you’ll see folks reading, conversing, eating and just enjoying each other as they watch the storm outside.

This edition has such things as classics like The Three Musketeers, reviews some tasty Nordic music and Americana jazz, a recipe for yummy ham hocks, yet another Thirteenth Doctor Who figure and a whole lot more. So while I go see what the Bar patrons want, why don’t you give it a look-see?


Denise digs into another of the Titan DC Comics novelizations with her look at Batman: The Killing Joke. She’s not particularly thrilled. ‘Sadly, unlike Tritan’s excellent work with Harley Quinn: Mad Love, Joke is a padded tome that does too much digging into characters we never see in the graphic novel, while paying lip-service to the electric confrontation between Batman and the clown prince of crime.’ 

Not a book review as such, but a loving look at a book instead, so let’s have  Christopher tell us his love: ‘As much as I love The Hobbit , the trilogy always appealed to me more, even as a child. There’s a terrible wisdom that hangs over The Lord of the Rings, a thematic undercurrent that is all about mortality and acceptance of the limits of humanity. In so many ways, it’s about twilight. Yes, there’s love and magic and the brotherhood of human society that we must embrace and relish, but the joy that brings is a wistful joy, draped with melancholy. In the midst of orcs and songs and grand battles and fellowships, those are the things that have always spoken most intimately to me, and what make The Lord of the Rings, in my heart and mind, Tolkien’s greatest achievement.’

Down the decades, we’ve reviewed most everything Patricia McKillip has published, so it’s only fitting we have a review by Richard of her latest book: ‘With Dreams of Distant Shores, Patricia A. McKillip delivers something that is not quite your typical short story collection. While the point of entry is a series of shorter pieces, the collection builds to and is anchored by the lengthy novella “Something Rich and Strange”, with an essay on writing high fantasy orthogonal to the usual tropes. The book then ends with appreciation of McKillip’s work (and the stories in the collection) by Peter S. Beagle, an elegant coda to a warm, thought-provoking collection.’

Robert takes a look at a classic, in the ‘rollicking adventure’ category, Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers: ‘Alexandre Dumas père was, in real life, a character as colorful as his heroes. He was the son of Napoleon’s famous mulatto general, Dumas, became a successful playwright, had numerous mistresses, took part in the revolution of 1830, spent extravagantly, built the Chateau de Monte-Cristo, and fled to Belgium to escape his creditors.’


Robert has a look at a film that’s fun, if not all that substantial: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief: ‘Percy Jackson is a special guy. Maybe it’s the dyslexia. Maybe it’s the ADHD. Or maybe it’s that his father is the god Poseidon.’


Jen has a recipe for some down-home, down-to-earth hearty fare: Black-eyed peas and ham hocks: ‘Long ago and far away in one of the grimier neighborhoods of New Haven, Connecticut there was a food co-op, the New Haven Food Co-op. . . . One of the benefits of shopping there was that some zealous members created leaflets with recipes for cheap but hearty fare, all themed. These were given away free at the check-out counter. One leaflet gave classic recipes for beans. That’s how I discovered black-eyed peas, and this recipe, somewhat modified over the years, but recognizable to its original author if s/he lives.’


Gary reviews a new album of jazzy Americana, or is that Americana-flavored jazz, from fiddler John Mailander. Of Forecast he says ‘Mailander is more about breaking down barriers than setting them up.’

‘Memorable tunes, superb musicianship, lyrics that are darkly hilarious or deeply dramatic, all in a loud, twangy, rocking package.’ That’s how Gary describes They Made Her a Criminal by Texas Noir rockers The Transgressors.

Kjell-Erik Arnesen and Jørgen Larsen’s Calls and Frydis Ree Wekre’s Ceros are recommended by Joel — ‘Both of these albums are horn-based. The horn is much less popular, it seems, than its cousins in the brass family. Most jazz bands have saxophone, trombone, and trumpet sections (in order of decreasing size), but no horns. I haven’t heard much where the horn was the primary instrument before now (nor as the only brass instrument), but two talented horn players demonstrate its versatility on these albums.’

Robert has some thoughts on some music that will liven up these long winter evenings, namely Johannes Brahms’ Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major and his Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A Minor: ‘There are certain artists whose work becomes an inextricable part of one’s life, whether it be a writer, a painter, or a composer. One develops a sense of the work, sometimes to the point where it all becomes one great work. Brahms is one of those artists in my life — my first experience with Brahms was a scratchy, hand-me-down 78 rpm of the great Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in D Minor, when I was about eight or nine — I fell in love. I’ve heard more Brahms than I can sometimes remember until a phrase drifts past and I think, “I know that one.” And sometimes, no matter how well I think I know the artist or a particular piece, I run across a new interpretation that opens new doors for me.’


Robert brings us up to date on the doings of the world’s most famous dinosaur, Sue the T. rex: ‘Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever found, has been a big draw at the Field Museum for seventeen years. Last year, she was taken off display and her place taken by Maximo, a replica of the skeleton of the largest dinosaur ever found. But, Sue is back, in her very own new quarters on the second floor in a side gallery in the “Evolving Planet” exhibition.’

Still hungry for more Who? Denise has you covered with her review of seven20’s SuperBitz Doctor Who Thirteenth Doctor Plush. ‘I’ve seen SuperBitz items here and there, but this is the first time I’ve ever been able to get a really good look. And it’s a well made plushie with great attention to detail.’ Read her review for a deeper dive into this Doctor!


I think some Irish music would be appropriate this time, so let me see what I can find on the Infinite Jukebox, our Media Server.  Ahhhh that’ll do… ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’  by Altan, one of my favourite Irish trad groups, which was recorded at the Folkadelphia Session on the 7th of March four year ago. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 13th of January: Americana flavoured Jazz, The Three Musketeers, a ‘dorable Thirteenth Doctor, Black-eyed peas and ham hocks, The World’s Most Famous Dinosaur, live music from Altan and other Winter treats

A Kinrowan Estate Story: The Living Library, Part I

I ran across him in a corridor I’d never explored before — the Library was on one end, but I’d never been down it and had no idea what was on the other. I’d seen him around, usually outside, occasionally in the Pub, a tall, broad-shouldered man with a great fall of fox-red hair barely contained by a silver ring, his movements oddly quick and fluid. He had with him a little wisp of a boy who seemed in constant motion, slipping in and out of sight. He looked at me out of long golden eyes, the kind of eyes that don’t tell much, but his smile was friendly enough.

‘Well, hello there. I see you’ve discovered the hallway to the Wood — what is it, Pix?’

‘Might I go hear a story?’ The boy was definitely there, quite solid now that I’d drawn close. Huge blue eyes in a thin face were almost pleading.

‘Hmm — very well, I suppose so, but do be careful — no wandering around. There, there’s your favorite story room just over there. Do you have your yarn? Here, tie one end to my wrist and be sure to hold on tightly now. Robin would never forgive me if I misplaced you. There — all set.’

‘Thank you. I promise, I’ll sit quietly and listen to the stories.’ The beginnings of a pout. ‘I wish I got to pick the story, though.’

‘Well, maybe we’ll figure out a way to do that. Now, run along, and don’t get lost — and stay out of the computer! Tch. I don’t know how he does that, but he does, and it sends Robin into a tizzy trying to get him downloaded again — he’s truly fond of the little imp — and Robin in a tizzy is — well, the man has a temper, though he’s gentle as can be if you treat him right.

‘Now, where was I — oh, right, this hallway. Be very careful if you’re inclined to explore at all — you might want to get your own ball of yarn. It tends to go places you might not expect, particularly near the Border. I’m not sure they’re all real to begin with, and it would be the Devil’s own job to get you back from some of them. And be especially careful of the Minotaur — he’s more irritable than usual this time of year.

‘Hmm? Oh, yes — it ends at the First Tree, in the center of the Wood. Robin says this is actually a root that became the Library. I don’t know where he learns these things, and that’s the truth. Iain — you’ve met Iain, haven’t you? our Librarian? — Iain says that’s outrageous, but Robin’s usually right about such as that — he’s very clever, my Robin. He thinks the House just grew here, but that’s a bit much even for me to swallow, and he can usually talk me into anything. Although now I think on it, the House does tend to add parts without warning, so maybe. . . . Well.

‘Here, look down here a ways and you can see. . . . Ah! Let me go get Pix to give me some slack so I can move around a bit. I’ll be right back. . . .’

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate Story: The Living Library, Part I

What’s New for the 6th of January: Much Ado About Doctor Who

Don’t be scared. All of this is new to you, and new can be scary. Now we all want answers. Stick with me — you might get some. — Thirteenth Doctor


I always enjoy this time in the Pub, as it’s really quiet since we don’t allow anyone except a handful of guests here this month and we don’t do any concerts save the ones done by staff, so it’s very restful. It’s just a place for conversation, drinking and the Neverending Session playing whatever they want, which is what they always do anyways. If you drop by here during the holiday season, first drink is on us.

We’ve a new Thirteenth Doctor Who just now, a talented performer by the name of Jodie Whittaker. Despite a lot of bile from fanboys, the series has its best ratings ever and that’s due in no small part to younger women now watching the show in very impressive numbers. We’ve never reviewed an entire series before though we certainly have reviewed an episode here and there, so it’s a great honour for me to note that long-time Whovian Denise is doing just that. You’ll also see a review by her of the Funko Pop Thirteenth Doctor figure as well.


The Whovian Universe is vast and has grown increasingly complex over the fifty years that it’s been evolving. Torchwood was one of its spinoffs, the secret agency that fought alien invasions from its Cardiff base. Cat reviewed their Torchwood India audio adventure and had this to say about it: ‘Golden Age is the story of Torchwood India and what happened to it. It is my belief that the best of all the Torchwood were the audio dramas made by BBC during the run of the series. Please note that it was BBC and not Big Finish that produced these despite the fact that latter produces most of the Doctor Who and spinoff dramas. This is so because the new Doctor Who audio dramas was kept in-house and these productions were kept there as well though Big Finish is now producing the new Doctor Who adventures as well.’

Not surprisingly, perhaps, there have been non-fiction books focusing on various aspects of the Doctor and his adventures. April brings us a look at a not-so-reverent example, The Discontinuity Guide: The Definitive Guide to the Worlds & Times of Doctor Who: ‘Remembered by many for its wobbly paper-mache Pinewood Studios effects, frequently changing casts and cheesy incidental music, Doctor Who is, nonetheless, a unique experiment in television, and one that has been frequently engaging and entertaining, despite the production quality. There have been numerous books about the show, some more serious than others; here’s one that refuses to take itself seriously, and fans will love it.’

Gereg, not to be outdone, brings us a tome that does take itself seriously — perhaps too seriously: ‘With essays covering the entire span of the various Doctor Who television series from 1963 onward, The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who addresses various ideas of The Doctor as a mythic figure. Unfortunately, the central premise — the idea that he is in fact mythic — is one that is never successfully supported.’


Denise as promised has her review of the just concluded season of Doctor Who, and enjoyed almost every moment of Season Eleven. ‘The new Doctor loves bobbing for apples candy floss, purple sofas, and fast talking…. I love it. Yes, I’ve said that I love things several times here. I’m not sorry.’ Why is Denise so enraptured? Only one way to find out; give her full review a look!

Cat now first looks at an adventure beloved by many fans of the series: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang featured Tom Baker, one of the most liked of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. That it is set during the Victorian Era is something that British have been fond of setting dramas in, well, since a few years after the era ended. Doctor Who has had stories set in this era myriad times.’

Cat also looks at Doctor Who‘s The Unicorn and The Wasp episode which I think had one of the better companions in Donna Noble: ‘One of my favourite episodes of the newer episodes of this series was a country house mystery featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of metanarrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day.’

And Robert is very enthusiastic about the Dr. Who spin-off, Torchwood, as you can see in his reviews of Season One and Season Three: Children of Earth: ‘The basic set-up is related in John Barrowman’s voice-over for the opening theme: “Torchwood: Outside the government, beyond the police. Fighting for the future on behalf of the human race.” In practical terms, that means dealing with alien threats, and other things that might come through the time/space rift, before they become threats.’


Cat was somewhat taken (but only somewhat) by two Doctor Who cookbooks: ‘This review is really an acknowledgement that there’s a nearly inifinite number of writings about Doctor Who done by the fans of the show over the past fifty years. Yes there’s fanfic where they’ve created their own stories, some using existing characters in new stories, some creating new characters in new situations. And then there are, err, cookbooks. Seriously you can’t be surprised that someone did did this, as I’m sure that there’s a Harry Potter cookbook or two out there.’


Denise takes a look at one of the many collectible tributes to our new Doctor, Funko’s Rock Candy‘s Thirteenth Doctor Vinyl Collectible. (No, it’s not actual candy, but a type of collectible from Funko.) She’s rather fond of her new Doctor. ‘She’s here! And she’s fantastic.’ Read Denise’s review for more information, and why she’s a fan of this collectible.


Our Coda is a just bit different this time though still with music in it. Doctor Who is fifty years old and has had obviously opening sequences that whole time. Until now, BBC has never compiled them together so we could experience how they’ve changed down the years. (And yes, there’s entire sites devoted to complaining about about how the new series has ruined these title sequences.) So for your considerable entertainment, go here and be delighted by what you see and hear as the music has been changed and not changed.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 6th of January: Much Ado About Doctor Who

A Kinrowan Estate Story: Katrina’s Requests (A Letter to Anna)

Dear Anna,

My, I’m glad that you’re doing several years living in Stockholm as part of your academic research as it means that you can send goodies this way. With that in mind, here’s a list of things that Katrina would like you to do for her. (She’s off to Edinburgh for a concert gig tonight.) And I have a few things for you to look for as well.

Katrina’s looking for any recent Swedish language studies on the home life of Carl Larsson that might not have been indexed in the Memoria here. She thinks there’s been recent new developments in that area. She’s also interested in any privately held sales of his works that might have held in the last several decades.

She’s also looking for any promoters that might be interested in booking her new group, Leaf and Tree, over the holidays next year. They’ve been working on a trio format for a concert programme of Scottish and Swedish traditional music that demonstrates the overlap in the two traditions. They’re not looking for money beyond that for food and drink, just an excuse for being there for several weeks during the Christmas holiday season. And I wouldn’t mind being there as well. She’ll be sending you promo packages shortly to give out to anyone you think might be interested. I know it’s rather short notice but they’re looking for exposure more than geld so all they need is two or three concerts.

Iain’s looking for leads on Library residencies that the more academically inclined of his Several Annies might attend in order to learn colloquial Swedish and get a good feel for Swedish culture.

And I hear that there’s a new limited edition single malt whisky from Stockholm-based Mackmyra that’s only being sold in their distillery shop. Reynard wants to purchase a crate for the Pub.

Until next time, Gus

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate Story: Katrina’s Requests (A Letter to Anna)

What’s New for the 30th of December: Horslips’ ‘Drive The Cold Winter Away’ and Other Matters for the New Year

And now we welcome the new year. Full of
things that have never been.

Rainer Maria Rilke

PFrom Winter Solstice to the end of January, only guests that have been invited by staff, usually no more than a half dozen in total at any given time, are allowed to stay here as we like the quietude of Kinrowan Hall and the Estate at this time of year. There’s more than enough room here to host that many souls without it feeling uncomfortable, but the extra folk do add a sense of liveliness to our small community that’s rather nice.

It’s amusing for me as Head Publican to watch the shift that Winter brings to our Pub. With many fewer visitors, it once again becomes a more low-key affair, with even the music played by visiting bands kinder and more restrained, and the Neverending Session being noticeably smaller and leaning towards the quieter end of the Nordic, Breton and Celtic traditions, which is something staff and those visitors here are quite fond of. Now let’s see what I’ve selected for this time …


It’s Winter and we all dream of Spring I think, so Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life is naturallly a work much liked by Gus: ‘Like many serious gardeners, I collect books about gardens and those who created them. This one is a recent acquisition of mine that ranks among the best I’ve encountered! Subtitled ‘The plants and places that inspired the classic children’s tales’, it is just what it says it is: a look at the gardens (and botanical things) that inspired her children’s writings.’

Iain has a look this time at Rex Stout’s Fer-de-lance. Iain says of Nero Wolfe, the brains here, that he ‘is an eighth-of-a-ton recluse who rarely leaves the Manhattan brownstone he owns, so he raises rare orchids, enjoys gourmet meals prepared by Fritz, reads a lot of books, and solves mysteries.’ Archie Goodwin, his dogsbody, is the first-person narrator for the series.

Kathleen looks at an academic work with a rather long title, to wit, Charles Butler’s Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children’s Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones & Susan Cooper. Her superbly written in-depth review looks at both the strengths and weaknesses of this work.

Kathleen also has a look at a book she’s treasured since her childhood, Tolkien’s Smith of Wooten Major & Farmer Giles of Ham. She says, ‘Smith and Farmer Giles have the advantage of being completed by Tolkien himself, and are lovely, polished tales. . . . They are the work of a very modern and well-educated scholar — but like all Professor Tolkien’s work, they feel like an echo of the sunlit fields and shadowed woods of the British mythic landscape that he so loved.’ Read her charming review here.


Denise continues her Feast of the Seven Fishes theme with a review of DeLallo Flat Fillets of Anchovies. She’s a fan of the much maligned fish, and these seem to have her pleased indeed. “…for pizza-fish lovers like me, opening this tin was like heaven.” Read her review for more info, and for a few ways to try anchovies if you’ve never taken the plunge (or are looking for more ways to enjoy them if you’ve already dived in.)

After a few weeks of fish, Denise cleansed her palate by indulging in Carletti’s Jakobsen Coffee Time chocolate collection. ‘Coffee time? Yes please! And while these chocolates  would go great with coffee, I had mine with a stout, and then a mug of green tea.’ But what’d she think? On to her review!


April has a choice recording for us: ‘As an integral part of the band Frifot (with Ale Moller and Per Gudmundson) and the Nordan project (with Ale Moller and others), as well as numerous other side projects, Lena Willemark has been a fixture on the Swedish folk scene since the late 1970s. Windogur, a set of ten original compositions commissioned by the city of Stockholm (in its role of Cultural Capital of Europe ’98), was first performed live as part of a series of concerts entitled “Ladies Next,” and only later translated to CD.’

For a sampler, nothing beats the three CDs in the Nordic Roots series put out by Northside.  Kim says ‘There’s a pleasing dissonance in Nordic traditions, often a restraint that hints of something without ever going there, that’s found much more in Nordic music than is often the case with music from the Irish and Celtic traditions.’ We recommend you read her review for why this set is a must listen for anyone interested in this music!

Lars has what we at GMR consider to be the definitive look at the definitive collection of folk music in Sweden ever done. — ‘During the 1950s and 1960s there was a lot of field recording taking place in Sweden and the Swedish speaking parts of Finland. A generation of source singers and musicians were growing very old and the effort was directed at preserving as much of their music as possible. Many of the recordings are hidden away in the vaults of Svenskt Visarkiv (a society dedicated to preserving songs), the Swedish Radio and other establishments, where they can be accessed for singers and musicians. But quite a few have resurfaced on various LPs and in radio programmes. In the middle of the 1990s the Swedish National Radio together with Caprice, a record company owned by Rikskonserter, a government agency aimed at supporting live music, started a project with the aims to present a broad selection of these recordings, arranged thematically, on CD. Up to date 28 CDs have been released, sometimes in boxes with two or three CDs in each. The box with Yoiks is no longer available but the rest are reviewed briefly here.’ His very detailed review of the aptly named Folk Music in Sweden is well worth your time to read in full.

Robert has a review for us of a live recording from the String Sisters: ‘There seems to be something magical about the number “6” when you’re talking about fiddles. Maybe that many fiddlers reaches a kind of critical mass that sets off a chain reaction of some sort. At any rate, when the six fiddlers in question are six star-caliber women from across the Britanno-Nordic musical realm, what you wind up with is some really, really good music.’ As a delightful bonus, You can hear them perform The Champagne Jig Goes To Columbia/ Pat & Al’s Jig.


Thinking of adding new items to your household for the coming year? Denise tried Liv With Roz Lemongrass Soap, and that’s now something she may add to her resolutions. ‘It’s not often a body wash and hand gel gal like myself gets stoked over bar soap. But stoked I am.’ See why she’s writing like Yoda in her review!


So let’s end this Edition and see the Year out with ‘Drive the Cold Winter Away’ as performed by the Horslips at The Spectrum in Philadelphia on the 24th of March 1979. It’s an old tune, written by London composer John Playford and published in The English Dancing Master he first published in 1651. Yes most musos now think it’s Irish trad.


Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 30th of December: Horslips’ ‘Drive The Cold Winter Away’ and Other Matters for the New Year

A Kinrowan Estate story: Blizzard


A letter from Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, to her botanist friend who is on an extended botanical collecting trip in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere. She copied her letters into her Journal and her will stated that they should be shared after her death. Alex as she preferred to be called lived to be well over a hundred and indeed outlived her beloved Queen.

Dear Tessa,

It’s been two weeks since one of the worst blizzards this century cut us off completely from the outside world. Now that doesn’t mean a lot as we get very few travellers here this time of the year and little business with the outside world gets done other than letters and newspapers coming in and letters going on. (You got this letter because one of the Nordic skiing enthusiasts traveled twenty miles to the nearest railway station to post letters and get any post that came in the last fortnight.) So the Estate is even more of a world unto itself right now that it is even at the best of traveling conditions.

Of course, the heavy snow means little work can be down outside other than what’s absolutely necessary. So lots of reading, gossiping with friends, and so forth. I’ve also been working on plans for a new herb garden that Head Cook wants which means Isabella has the Several Annies researching Elizabethan herb gardens to see what they looked like. One of the problems of an Estate like this is every Head Gardener, every Cook, for centuries has had ideas with what to with the gardens so what exist now has little resemblance to what existed a few centuries ago. Not a complaint by me, just stating what is.

The Steward has had the newly fixed Mill Pond (the repairs turned out to be trivial) cleaned of snow and has arranged for our first curling tournament to be held. I think it’s a silly game but it is outdoors which gets us out for some hours each day. It’s easy to learn, difficult to master. And Cook served tea (or hot chocolate) and biscuits after we gathered by the fireplace in the kitchen to warm up after coming in.

The winning team was coached by Isbella and comprised naturally of her Several Annies. I think they won in part because the males got distracted by their swirling skirts!

I’ve been learning Welsh as there’s been a Welsh literature reading group here for longer than anyone here can recall. I think the real purpose there is less to read medieval Welsh manuscripts like the Red Book of Hergest, the White Book of Rhydderch, the Book of Aneirin, and the Book of Taliesin than to drink metheglin!

It’s an interesting undertaking, and Isabella, like all Librarians for years upon years, thinks everyone should know as many languages as possible! She’s invited Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Guest to lecture here this Spring on her translation of The Mabinogion.

The Steward has approved your funding to purchase more carpets, and he added a generous amount to purchase more books for the Library. Our banking agent in Constantinople has been wired the monies.

Lastly I should mention all of the kittens have been adopted. I’ve kept one of them that I named Ysbaddaden in honour of his size. Though all of them being males are truly big kittens!

Love Alex


Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Blizzard

What’s New for the 23rd of December: Ursula LeGuin’s The Books of Earthsea, Unicorns, The Feast of Seven Fishes, a Fairy-Tale Opera, Jennifer Stevenson’s ‘Solstice’ and other Winter matters

The storyteller in me asks: what if? And when I
try to answer that, a story begins.

 Jane Yolen, author of The Wild Hunt


Let me set my blue chai and breakfast curry with roti and poached egg aside for a minute. Yes, it’s an unusual breakfast but I got to like it travelling in Southwest Asia some decades past and the Kitchen here is quite used to offbeat whims when it comes to culinary desires among the staff here. Getting in fresh coconut was they said somewhat difficult but not impossible …

Chris has a review this edition of LeGuin’s The Books of Earthsea which Saga Press just published this past month. It got me thinking about her being around for as long as most of us have been reading fantasy, and yes I think of her as a fantasy writer primarily, and she more than many writers shaped how we think about the genre by making us actively think about what we’re reading. And that enriches all of us immeasurably.

So let’s turn to this Edition…


As promised above, Chris has a review of The Books of Earthsea. We of course got several copies for the Kinrowan Library as it’s going to be very popular reading this winter. So what did he think about it? ‘In October, Saga Press released Ursula LeGuin’s collected Earthsea works, beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess. This collection includes the original trilogy: A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971 ) and The Farthest Shore (1972), as well as the novels in which LeGuin revisited the trilogy, Tehanu (1990) and The Other Wind (2001), which conclude the saga many years after the events of the originals. Also included are Tales from Earthsea, LeGuin’s 2001 collection, and four other stories, including the never before published “Daughter of Odren.” Her illuminating essay, “Earthsea Revisioned,” which she delivered as a lecture in Oxford in 1992, is also here, along with an introduction from the author. In short, this giant of a volume includes everything you need to know about Earthsea, and it’s a delight to see it all collected in one place.’

Jo says that ‘Folk legend merges with Jane Yolen’s creative world to create a work of pure magic in The Wild Hunt, which should be destined to become a classic in the world of children’s literature. Pitting the forces of light and dark against one another is a common theme, but it is rare for those forces to acknowledge the other as essential to their own existence, as done in this delightful tale. Yolen’s use of time and words have woven a masterpiece from the ancient threads of an old tale together with the modern threads of something totally new and different. The resulting tapestry is beautiful to behold.’

Grey looks at Susan Cooper’s award-winning The Dark is Rising series; ‘When I was a teenager I often repeated these lines to myself as a kind of charm. It wasn’t that I expected them to make something happen; the words were a “happening” in and of themselves, and just saying them put me into the middle of it. They were a door into Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising cycle, one of the most compelling stories I had ever read. The story compels me to this day, and I continue to re-read it every few years.’

Robert brings us sequel that fits the season. Really, it does — it even has an angel: ‘Tanya Huff’s The Second Summoning is, as might be expected, a sequel to Summon the Keeper. It is just as wryly funny, with the attitude we’ve come to expect from Huff, and is sometimes surprisingly insightful about the trials and tribulations of growing up.’

We didn’t have anything on reindeer, but we have something even better. Our newest reviewer Warner bring us The Unicorn Anthology: ‘An anthology is always an interesting read, filled with multiple narratives and styles and as a result uneven by nature. The Unicorn Anthology, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman, is one which comes with a plainly stated theme.’


Cat loves an offbeat Christmas film: ‘I don’t do movie theatres for various reasons, including audiences that chatter too much and the smell of that weird stuff that’s not really butter. And so it is that I’m watching an animated film released several Christmas seasons past called Rise of The Guardians which features a Russian Father Christmas, an Australian Easter Bunny (complete with boomerang), The Sandman, and a really cute (in a fey way) female Tooth Fairy. All Guardians of the hopes, wishes and dreams of children everywhere.’

Despite the untimely death of its lead actor Heath Ledger, I think this film review by Liz points to one of the feel-good films of all time: ‘Oyez, Dudes! The Renaissance Rockz! This film is not for the literal minded, nor for students looking for an easy way to do research on the Renaissance. A Knights Tale is writer/director Brian Helgeland’s attempt to create a sort of early-Renaissance Rocky, only with jousting, not boxing, as the central sport and metaphor. Oh, and the soundtrack is a mix of Early Music and 1970’s pop tunes.’


Hey all, and Happy Merry! Denise here, taking over the Food & Drink section yet again. This time I’m adding to my Feast of Seven Fishes with two more fishy reviews. I’ll continue with four more scattered through the next few issues, so’s not to overwhelm you. But for now? Dig in to these!

First, I’m taking a look at Specially Selected’s Cold Smoked Salmon. Store-brand salmon? From low-price wonderland Aldi? Yep yep. And before you turn your nose up, read my review. Here’s a taste (pun intended); ‘…I wasn’t able to stop myself with this salmon.’ Why not? Well now, you know what to do next.

To balance things out, I also devoured some Specially Selected’s Hot Smoked Cajun Flavored Salmon. Because why not? ‘This salmon was a tough to review, because the moment I opened the packet the delicious smell of smoked fish and cajun spice I wanted to devour the entire thing in one go. Willpower and I have never had more than a passing acquaintance.’ Read my full review to find out exactly why I’m now a fan of smoking (edibles) however I can get ’em!

And for those of you who are done with fish, how about cakes? Soulmass-cake, aka Soul Cakes, are a medieval tradition that The British Bake Off has resurrected. These cakes were typically baked for All Hallows Eve and Christmastide, to pass out to the poor. But how does one make these things? A quick Google search shows that there are more recipes for this classic cake than you can shake a candy cane at. So if the tradition of handing out food to those less fortunate than you appeals – and at this festive season it should – feel free to hand out whatever type of cake, bread or item you feel would best help those in need. Donate to your local charity. Clean out your closet and drop off your unwanted pieces to a shelter. Whatever you decide, if it comes from the heart, you’ll be in keeping with the soul cake tradition. Joyeux Noël, one and all.


Richard has a choice few words for us about a DC series: ‘To read Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers as a straight narrative, or to take it at face value, is really to miss the point of the series. It is a deconstruction of the classic superhero team-up comic, done with malice aforethought and the intent of ripping down every cliché and classic trope of the genre. Which is to say that if you actually like that sort of world-spanning super-smorgasbord, you’re probably going to think Seven Soldiers is awful. If, on the other hand, you think that anyone at DC who even mentions the word “Crisis” needs to be put on six months’ sabbatical, this might be more your cup of tea.’


Gary, who says he’s not usually one for holiday music, enjoys the new Valse de Noël, An Acadian-Cajun Christmas Revels. In addition to some carols from those traditions, it features Acadian dance tunes and ballads, some Cajun two-steps, and some songs and tunes shared by French-Canadian and Cajun cultures.

Jayme looks at what I’d say is essential listening for Celtic music fans: ‘There’s no gloss and polish here like you’d find on, say, an Altan disc, no studio jiggery and double-tracked harmonies that are so commonplace on a Clannad release. Not that those are necessarily bad things, mind you, but every one of the 11 tracks on The Best of Silly Wizard sound like they were recorded in one take in the studio, with the entire band playing at once, rather than the more common practice of laying down each instrument separately and mixing later. Now, I don’t know if that’s actually the way Silly Wizard recorded the music here, but the end result.’

Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King draws this note from No’am: ‘This disk tries primarily to separate the fact from the fiction. “The historical Arthur is a highly controversial figure. Theories abound as to his region of activity and his ancestry.” are the first two sentences in the well written sleeve notes. Arthur also tries to provide in music a feeling of what it was like to have been alive in time of Arthur. Thus we have songs written from the point of view of Arthur himself: “The poet and the troubadour have stolen my name” are the opening words from “The Name Of Arthur,” from what constituted the aristocracy of the time — people who were more Roman than British, from the warriors, and also from more artistic and legendary viewpoints. “The Hallows” begins with the words “From my name has come a dream, a fable, a myth.”

If you’d like something different this season — not the standard Nutcracker or Messiah — see if your local opera company is performing Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel. Robert says: ‘It’s one of those Christmas things that people do, like The Nutcracker and Handel’s Messiah. It also happens to be a lot of fun. Humperdinck made extensive use of folk melodies in the score, which certainly adds to the opera’s charm (I don’t think anyone would not recognize the music to “Ra-la-la,” the dance song in the first act), and the story, of course, is well-known.’


OK, you do know that we have a resident hedgehog at this Scottish Estate by the name of Hamish MacBeth? If you did,  it wouldn’t surprise you that Robert reviewed this puppet: ‘Well, I finally got my first Folkmanis puppet to review, and appropriately enough, it’s the Little Hedgehog — and let me tell you, he’s a real charmer.’

Denise mentioned soul cakes in our Food & Drink section, so I’d be remiss to not mention that Kage once pondered upon them as well: ‘Barm Brack is a soul cake — traditional Scots recipe calls for a bean or silver coin or some other token to be baked into it and the person getting the winning slice gets fame or good luck or sacrificed or whatever, deciding on how much of The Wicker Man you take seriously.’

I’m feeling generous this time so I’m going finish Our What Not this time with a look at something that was very special to Vonnie: ‘The Christmas Revels is a special event, an annual tradition on par with performances of the Nutcracker, only tailored to lovers of folk traditions. After 42 years, it has accreted tradition of its own, which helps audience members to feel like part of the holiday community — which is the point of the Revels. The culture on which the performance focuses changes from year to year but the basic shape of the performance — and its professionalism — remains constant.’ Her look at the Irish Christmas Revels is here, and her review of Strike The the Harp: An Irish Christmas Revels can be found thisaway.P

The only choice to leave you on is Jennifer Stevenson reading her ‘Solstice’ tale of a small town musician who gets dumped by her boyfriend in apparently the middle of nowhere who had the most magical night one could hope for. If you prefer to read it, it’s one of our offerings in the Words menu on the top left side of this site.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 23rd of December: Ursula LeGuin’s The Books of Earthsea, Unicorns, The Feast of Seven Fishes, a Fairy-Tale Opera, Jennifer Stevenson’s ‘Solstice’ and other Winter matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Something Awful

There’s a void in the records of this Estate around thirteen hundred. No, not in the made-up history that the Steward in the eighteen hundreds created out of whole cloth, a comforting lie that neatly created a history for us that didn’t exist on paper or in memory.

Something bad happened here, something that the Estate inhabitants wanted not a soul to hear about down the centuries. Something bloody, something abhorrent. Those of us who’ve The Sight, who can see the ghostly visions of the past, can’t see anything that tells us what happened. No ghosts, no traces of anything happening. It’s not that we can’t see anything — it’s as if nothing happened at that point in time.

Even the old stone church, strangely built in the Viking way like a long boat made of stone and likely put up in the twelve hundreds, simply leaves no impact upon the Grey that is the ghostly traces of what happened then. I even tried asking the Fae and they just look blankly at me as if the question itself makes no sense! Tamsin, the current hedgewitch and another one with The Sight, says that asking the owls what their collective memory say happened also draws a blank.

The only physical clue to what happened is a barrow mound that the Estate ghosts and Russian wolfhounds won’t go near. It’s got magical wards on it that chill even I, who have fought gods and demons and monsters down the centuries. Hell, my ravens won’t even fly anywhere near it … Those who don’t have The Sight aren’t even aware there’s a barrow mound there — they just walk around it, not even noticing they’re doing so. We who know ’tis there think that’d be a very bad idea to disturb whatever lies sleeping there.

I didn’t say this was a comforting tale, so drank up your whiskey and I’ll have Reynard pour us another one. Sleep well tonight!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Something Awful

What’s New for the 16th of December: A Charles de Lint edition

Have a drink and listen to the music. — Charles de Lint’s Forests Of The Heart


I always think of de Lint as being one of those writers fit for reading a cold winter’s night. So when I was looking through the Archives that I decided that it was well-worth sharing with you some of the wealth of material concerning him that we’ve done.

So we’re devoting this issue entirely to Charles de Lint and his writings — Paul Brandon, a friend of Charles and a well-known author in his own right, has penned an appreciation of Charles which follows these short notes; Cat Eldridge offers us an interview with him; Robert Tilendis has a career retrospective regarding his writings; and various writers such as Terri Windling, OR Melling, James Hetley and so forth pay homage to him. Oh, and there are two goodies for you to hear by Charles — one performed by him, another performed by a superb Celtic group! Might there be even additional offerings to tickle your fancy? See for yourself!


Greeting I’m Paul Brandon. I’m glad that there’s no lectern.

When the folks at Green Man asked me to do the introductory kind of speech thing for Charles de Lint, my first thought was ‘I hope there’s not a lectern.’ I dislike public speaking at the best of times, and if I’m coerced into doing it at a festival or a workshop, I nearly always do it from behind a desk or nested in a nice comfy chair. I’m tall, and lecterns come in some kind of standardised ‘normal’ (I’m assuming) height, so I either have to stand upright and not be heard because the microphone is a foot below me, or I slouch and assume a posture that is halfway between casual author arrogance and a severe curvature of the spine. So there you go. I hate lecterns.

So as I shrug out of my heavy coat and cross to the bar, I’m already feeling a bit better. I love the Green Man pub. It’s almost as if it’s a room that’s slipped free from Tamson House, and it knows just what you like. For me, it’s the oak panelling, the low ceilings and beams (though remind me I said that in a few hours after a couple of ales. Tall, remember), the throbbing fire and the truly astonishing array of drink. This is the one place I know where I can still get my beloved Fremlins Kentish Ale and Tasmanian Pepperberry vodka. It’s kind of a shame that Charles doesn’t drink, although I have a sneaking suspicion that somewhere under the bar there’ll be a bag mixed with his own concoction of Starbucks coffees. Probably guarded by Hamish, the resident hedgehog here. Someone’s gone to a lot of effort for this evening. All the of the usual amazing artwork has been taken down and replaced with wonderful framed prints of Charles’s book covers, although the one just to my right of Forests of the Heart looks like it may well be the John Jude Palencar original. There’s also a whole bunch of his own watercolours, and some by his partner, MaryAnn.

It’s almost like being at an Ani diFranco concert here — you swear you can see some of Charles’s characters walking around, drinks in in hand, peeking over shoulders, listening in to conversations with sly smiles on their faces. Charles’s appearances are often like that.

Yep, that’s him over in the corner singing the Fred Eaglesmith song. Impressive isn’t it. The first time I heard him sing was in a hotel room in Montreal, not long after we’d met face to face for the first time, and he damn near blew me off my chair. For such a quiet person he sure can let fly. There are a couple of tracks on the Infinite Jukebox here at Green Man if you’re interested — one of him playing a song, one of him conversing on a radio programme about the relationship between two of his passions, music and writing.

That’s MaryAnn on the right, no, the other right. You can’t miss that beautiful wild hair and the sound of the sweet little Gibson mandolin. Out of all the people I’ve ever met, Charles and MaryAnn are the most complete of couples. Partnership doesn’t go far enough to describe their relationship.

I’m just going to lean here a while, sip my beer and soak in the music and memories.

I can clearly recall my first encounter with Charles’s work.

.It was in a small bookshop in Bromley, England, in the days when fantasy and science fiction had their own departments, rather than just a few shelves. My dates are sketchy, but it must’ve been sometime around 1984, and I would have been . . . well, younger. The book, of course, was Moonheart, and I clearly remember standing there looking at the beautiful cover (this would have been the Pan edition, with the tall trees, shafting light and the two little chaps standing by the trunk. The print is over . . . there. The frame directly above Don, the fiddler). I know the old adage about a book and its cover, but sometimes the old sayings are wrong. I devoured it.

I was a precocious reader as a young wan, always with a book on the go, and something within Moonheart really got to me. Looking back, I guess it was the beautiful blend of myth and reality, set in a very appealing city (and Ottawa didn’t disappoint when I finally got there many years later), but it was also a little more than that, and I think as I became a writer myself, I understood what it was. Moonheart was written with love, passion, and it rubs off onto you with every page. I think that’s why so many readers list it as their favourite of Charles’s considerable library.

After that came Greenmantle, Yarrow and The Little Country (which is still my favourite, because I know Cornwall and the music so well), then came my Life Upheaval in the form of a move to Australia, and I hit the wall that most fans of Charles would have come across at that time. The mysterious Back Catalogue. This was back in the mid ’90s, before the Internet really took off, and one had to get bibliographical information from books or those extremely limited off-line catalogues in bookstores! I remember somehow getting very lucky and finding an import of Jack of Kinrowan (Jack the Giant-Killer and Drink Down the Moon) in a local store, and then getting set on the breadcrumb trail of Charles’s myriad shorts and other ‘hidden’ works such as the mysteries he originally wrote under the pseudonym of Samuel. M. Key such as Angel of Darkness.

I did a quick check on ‘urban fantasy’ on Wikipedia just before I walked over here, and Charles’s name is listed as one of the key pioneers, along with the likes of John Crowley, Emma Bull and Jonathan Carroll. Mythic Fiction is probably more of an appropriately broad term, as Charles quite often steps away from his beloved streets of Newford, and over the past number of books, the still of the desert has featured alongside the cathedralling trees of the wildwood.

The explosion of the Internet opened up the ability to find these out of print books, and also brought me in contact with the man himself. I found an online mailing list called Tamson House, and promptly, a bunch of new friends. Mostly it was just general talk, life, love, magic, books, music, but there was also a fair bit of trading and exchanging of Charles’s stuff. Luckily there’s no such problem these days, with most of Charles’s work available online, and the shorts gathered into the two Triskell Tales volumes, Triskell Tales and Triskell Tales Two. I found a bunch of copies of The Wild Wood that were illustrated by Froud, and asked if anyone would like to swap one for something else I didn’t have, and I was quite surprised to find an email from Charles asking about them himself. Well from there we began corresponding, with me sending him musical tidbits from Australia (he’s a big fan of Divinyls, not to mention a bunch of other lesser-known Australian performers) and he’d send me books, CDs, knick-knacks. Over the course of the years we kept up a constant dialogue, until we finally managed to be in the same country at the same time and we could meet. That was the World Fantasy Convention in 2001, and my partner Julie and I were going to be in Montreal. Luckily, the meeting went well. We spent time with them in Ottawa, and Charles and MaryAnn stayed with us in Australia a couple of years ago, despite MaryAnn’s worries about the snakes and spiders.

One thing that has always staggered me about Charles is his amazing workload. Besides being a novelist, he puts out a amazing number of short stories (and I’m including in that simple description all the novellas, novelettes, verse, et al), writes the Books to Look For column for the magazine of F&SF, plays music in a local pub on Thursday nights (and he plays a number of instruments very well), does book tours, listens to an amazing amount of music in every genre known to an iPod, and corresponds with countless people all over the world. I do about a quarter of that and I still moan about the speed of the days. Secretly, a few of us thinks he has one of those little reality folds into the UnderEarth, somewhere in his crowded attic room, a little like the ones described in Someplace to be Flying, and that he nips away for days at a time, only to emerge back in Ottawa five minutes after he finished his last coffee.

So, the future. Well as always there are a lot of people holding out for a movie of one of Charles’s stories (an episode, The Sacred Fire, of The Hunger was made a few years ago from the Dreams Underfoot tale, which was very good), and there are a lot of us holding our breath for an album of some sorts. The musical little tasters we’ve been given over the years at various conventions and signings point to something well worth waiting for. And of course, new stories. I have the new novel, Widdershins and Triskell Tales, Volume 2 sitting on the bedside table back home, positively hollering to be read.

On a personal note, I just want this speech to be over so I can sit and play some tunes with a pair of old friends.


Needless to say, it wasn’t hard to find people willing to comment on de Lint, his writing, and his other endeavors. To start, what might be considered, for the most part, a few blurbs, we might call them, by other writers, editors, and even an illustrator.

Author and editor Terri Windling tells us a story about transformation, one of de Lint’s major themes. Yes, stories can make a difference.

James Hetley, also an author and a friend of de Lint, has some observations on de Lint’s role in the creation of what we now call “urban fantasy.”

And finally, author (another author? Must be the company he keeps) OR Melling has words of praise for Charles de Lint the writer and the person.

And to sum it up, Robert, who has been reading de Lint’s fiction for more years than he’s willing to admit brings us a quasi-critical history of de Lint’s writing.


We did mention that de Lint is a musician, didn’t we? Well, he is, as witnessed first by his album Old Blue Truck. And in this context, given her contribution to that album, it’s only meet that we introduce you to the music of MaryAnn Harris, as evidence on her EP, Crow Girls. And as additional testimony of de Lint’s abilities as a composer, Zahatar recorded an album of tunes from his novel The Little Country.


And finally, a word from the man himself, written originally on the occasion of his having been named Oak King at Green Man Review.


Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 16th of December: A Charles de Lint edition

A Kinrowan Estate story: Restless (A Letter to Ekentrina)

Dear Ekentrina,

I find myself restless this morning, even though I got barely three hours’ sleep, as the Pub stayed busy ’till past two. Blame it on three days of truly nasty weather that’s left the not quite Winter season work crews with precious little to do. None-the-less, it’s barely seven in the morning and I’ve left our warm bed where Ingrid sleeps on, barely aware I’ve left. Your sister has always been a deep sleeper!

There is a quickening in the air and in the oaks in the Courtyard that reminds you that the dark winter months are upon us even and there’s a deep chill in the morning air that will only get stronger in the coming months.

Of course, there are always warm places in this building where one can be comfortable, such as the kitchen! Even without the sun shining through the windows into that ever so pleasant space, there are enticing smells of baking on the air, and quite pleasant Welsh music being played where the Neverending Session, including a crwth player, has taken up residence in a cozy corner near the fireplace. The work crews kept dropping by to see if they could cadge a bit of breakfast despite the early hour . . .

For me, I’d take some really sharp Quebec cheddar and the still warm from the oven sourdough bread with braised onions and small dark olives in it with a cup of strong coffee with fresh cream.

Your sister’s usually the morning person as I’m the one who works into the early hours, but she put in extra hours the last few days with The Steward doing the report to the Estate trustees on the finances for the past year. I think they’ll be very pleased as we made a pretty profit due to a most excellent number of conferences ranging from an environmental makers NGO regional gathering to the curling round-robin this past Winter. And this year looks equally busy which means I’ll run a tidy profit again.

Now I must leave you, as otherwise I’ll miss out on the Nutella crepes with smoked bacon on the side that the kitchen staff has prepared — and I for one think that’s a great breakfast treat!

Until next time, Reynard

PS: So when are you coming to visit? My wife’s hinting rather strongly that either you must come soon or we’ll need to visit you in Riga. And there’s a place for you here if Putin starts eyeing your country as his next acquisition. I wonder if he realizes that some of the more restless border regions of Russia may argue to join the area they’re more culturally akin to? And there’s not enough left of the old Soviet army to put down multiple rebellions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Restless (A Letter to Ekentrina)

What’s New for the 9th of December: Lots of Tull, Haydn’s “The Seasons”, Questions About Angels, a country house mystery, and other matters for you to consider

So how can you laugh when your own mother’s hungry,
And how can you smile when the reasons for smiling are wrong?
And if I just messed up your thoughtless pleasures,
Remember, if you wish, this is just a Christmas song.

Jetho Tull’s ‘A Christmas Song’

In our hearts, we all want to hear those three little words: “pie for breakfast”. Well hand pies, anyways. Mrs. Ware and our ever-so-skilled Kitchen staff are keenly aware that a working Estate doesn’t mean staff can always take the time out of their busy schedules to sit down and eat a meal, hence breakfast hand pies.  Ham, egg and cheddar; apple and yet more cheddar; sausage, egg and cheese — something to please any hearty appetite, no matter what time of day.

I’ve been helping Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, decorate Kinrowan Hall for the Holidays so I’ve been up early for me, around nine in the morning, and I grabbed a ham, apple and cheddar hand pie before heading out to string more wreathing around the Hall. It was warm and oh, so tasty.

I’m back in the Pub now, so let’s turn to this Edition. Oh and be advised that next week is an updating of our Charles de Lint Edition, which is full of wonderful looks at books he’s done (rather obviously as he’s an author) and music as well (bet you didn’t know he and his wife MaryAnn Harris have albums out).  So do come back next week to see what we have by him and her!

Camille says that ‘In The Moon and the Face, Patricia McKillip revisits Kyreol and Terje from her lovely Young Adult novel Moon-Flash. Kyreol and Terje, having followed the river to the Dome in book one of this duology, now push beyond the new boundaries of their expanded world: Terje back into the culture they left behind, though as a ghostly observer; and Kyreol outward, into the stars. When Terje discovers the Healer (Kyreol’s father) is dying and Kyreol barely survives a crash landing on a distant desert moon, both of them must find inner resources to meet challenges they never anticipated.’

Denise takes a look at the new DC Comics novels with Harley Quinn: Mad Love. ‘Who can say where this new series of books may take Daddy’s Little Monster? It’s too early to even guess, but with a starter like Love, I’m game for wherever she’ll lead me.’ Sounds promising, no? Read her review for the full story!

Jane Yolen, Shulamith Oppenheim and Stefan Czernecki’s The Sea King is appreciated by Grey: ‘This lovely folk tale has many old friends in it: Vasilisa the Wise, a beautiful princess who is also a bird; Baba Yaga the witch in her house that runs by itself on chicken legs; the King of the Sea in his underwater palace of crystal; and the innocently wise boy who finds his way because he’s generous and observant. And it has one of the most poignant story lines of all: the father who promises to sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home — only to find out that he’s just been borne a son.’

Robert says the poetry of Billy Collins is a delight, as is readily apparent in Questions About Angels: ‘Born in 1942 in New York City, Collins has published numerous collections and garnered, among other recognition, fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is possibly one of the most widely exposed of living poets. Questions About Angels, originally published in 1991, was selected by Edward Hirsch for the National Poetry Series.’

An English country house murder mystery gets reviewed by David: ‘As traditional as the genres he chose might have been, in Altman’s hand they were turned upside-down, and sideways. Warren Beatty and Julie Christie became anti-hero and opium addict in Altman’s “western” McCabe & Mrs. Miller, set to the music of Leonard Cohen! A laconic Elliott Gould became Raymond Chandler’s private dick Phillip Marlowe in an updated LA for Altman’s “detective” classic The Long Goodbye. Robert Altman has been the most American of directors, and now, in Gosford Park, he takes on the English country house murder mystery. Altman’s Agatha Christie film? What could this mean?’

As cold weather comes to stay, warm beverages take center stage around here. So Denise looks into Smashmallow’s Cinnamon Churro marshmallows to see if they’d be a welcome addition to our stores. She’s happy with what she found: ‘I have a love-hate relationship with marshmallows. I love how they bob on the top of my drink, but hate that most of the time I’m left with a soggy bit of ‘mallow bloof (it’s a word because I just used it) as I empty my mug. However, that’s about to change, thanks to Smashmallow.’ See why she’s pleased in her review.

Gary notes that ‘There are memoirs, and there are cookbooks. A few authors have combined the two, but none that I’ve read have been so successful at it as Diana Abu-Jaber with her delightful The Language of Baklava’. Read the rest of his equally delightful review for the details on this book.

I noted last week that the DC Universe streaming service in the States was doing a live action Doom Patrol series (and Netflix will be having it here in the UK and Europe we’re told),  and we’re also being being told that they’re also doing the same with Swamp Thing! So let’s turn to April’s look at this tasty offering: ‘For the first time, Moore’s early work on Saga of the Swamp Thing — the first eight issues — has been released in hardback format. This edition includes issue 20, which has not previously been available outside the original single issue. Original creator Len Wein provides the introduction, while author Ramsey Campbell add a foreword.’ It is not the first live action series for this DC being as this review by Debbie shows.

Brendan has a tasty recording from Finland for your consideration: ‘JPP — short for Järvelän Pikkupelimannit (” Little Folk Musicians of Järvelä”) — originally formed in 1983 as a local fiddle orchestra in the small town of Järvelä, Finland. Formed around the nucleus of 3 fiddlers, including leader Arto Järvelä, a harmonium player, and a bass player, they spent most of the Eighties and early Nineties gathering a devoted following in Finland and across the world and the reputation of being particularly inventive interpreters of Finland’s rich folk heritage. With the publication of Kaustinen Rhapsody, JPP proved itself to be excellent performers of contemporary music as well.’

Got a Tull fan on your Christmas shopping list? Oh does Chris have a suggestion for you: ‘Over the past several years, many classic rock bands have been re-releasing their backlist, and Jethro Tull is no exception. Like most Tull fans, I already have these albums, in some cases in multiple formats, so I was initially skeptical of the new releases. Did I really need a box set of an album, when I already had an LP, cassette tape, and, as in the case of Aqualung, the 25th anniversary CD? However, I found myself tempted by Songs from the Wood, a personal favorite album of mine, and decided to take my chances with it, and the reissue of Heavy Horses. I wasn’t disappointed.’

Gary reviews a digital release of recordings from the New York Ragas Live program, an annual festival in which musicians play ragas for a live audience and live radio broadcast for 24 hours straight. The Ragas Live Retrospective gathers performances from 2012 through 2017, and Gary says ‘It’s a rich, creative and infinitely rewarding exposition of the current state of the New York raga renaissance.’

Robert brings us a review of music that’s fit for all seasons, namely Joseph Haydn’s Die Jahreszeit: ‘I’m always delighted and amused by what the eighteenth century — one of the most mannered and formal periods in Western history — considered “lacking in artifice.” However, whatever my personal opinion (coming, as it does, from a casual and fairly spontaneous contemporary American Midwesterner), that was one of the major points of praise by his contemporaries for Joseph Haydn’s oratorio, The Seasons.’

Krampus, that dark side of Christmas folklore doesn’t get always get the recognition he deserves but writer Elizabeth Hand who is familiar to many of of you has a book to recommend: ‘The Devil in Design: The Krampus Postcards, edited by Monte Beauchamp, on Fantagraphics. Beautifully reproduced artwork from 19th and early 20th century Austrian, German, and Czech postcards featuring the diabolical Krampus, St. Nicholas’s demonic sidekick. Perverse and a nice, dark, folkloric alternative to Christmas kitsch.’

We started off with lyrics from Tull so let’s finish off with them as well. ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ has no apparent entry in the Infinite Jukebox database which I admit is rather odd but it’s fine sounding none- the-less. It was, as Ian notes in the brief intro to it, done in the lead-up to the release of the Jethro Tull Christmas Album which means it was recorded in the summer of fifteen years ago.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 9th of December: Lots of Tull, Haydn’s “The Seasons”, Questions About Angels, a country house mystery, and other matters for you to consider

A Kinrowan Estate story: Estate Canines

Welcome to the Kinrowan Hall. Mind your step now.

We’ll just go down this corridor to my office. Yes, I know it’s a little dusty. I don’t come here as often as I would like. Why? Well, it’s the cats. You see, my husband is allergic to them, so before I leave here I have to have a shower and then sneak out the back way to avoid them, and when I get home I have to wash all my clothes separately, or he’s miserable till I get rid of all the cat hair. So when I come, I stay at least a week, read all day and stay up all night listening to the Neverending Session. Might as well make it worth it.

Where was I? Oh yes, cats. I love cats. So does my husband, for that matter, which makes his affliction all the more tragic. Of course, the offices are crawling with them, and sometimes I wonder how the dogs stand it.

You didn’t know we had dogs here? Saints preserve us, of course there are dogs! Couldn’t get along without them. Get up, then, and I’ll take you to meet them.

Actually, you don’t want to meet Fergus and Fidelma. They guard the stables, they and their whelps. A fine brood they have, too. Their pups are always in high demand as guard dogs to the discerning.

You might not want to meet Colm and Connor and Ike, who patrol the grounds, either. They’re bull mastiffs. Bred to catch poachers back in the Old Country, they were. No, of course we don’t have trouble with poachers here — not with Colm and Connor and Ike on the job. Seriously, while the Building welcomes all who come with good will, there are always a few, fey or not, who don’t come with good will at all. The bull mastiffs take care of them nicely. They don’t hurt them, mind, just discourage them from hanging about.

Perhaps we’ll just have a look out the window, then, and see if we can spot them. Look, there’s Connor over there, on the other side of the moat. And the lovely little tyke drinking from it? She’s Sophie, one of the junior music editors. You’re lucky you can see her. Not everyone can — she’s half-fey.

Yes, of course we need a moat. See the hillock in it? That’s where the bandog lives. Actually, he’s a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Jamie. Came here with a piper-lass named Tiffany. She ran off with one of the best squeeze-box players ever to grace the Neverending Session, but Jamie stayed. He seems to be under a spell of some sort, and he’s vicious as all get-out. Thinks he can’t cross running water, fortunately, so we managed to get him onto the hillock when he was asleep. He has a fine doghouse there, fit for a King Charles, and traditionally the newest staff member has the joy of feeding him.

Let’s go on down to the Pub, then, but first I see you’ve meet Boomer, our hyperactive Boston terrier. Has quite the eye for the ladies, does our Boomer. They don’t have quite as much of an eye for him, but he’s ever hopeful. Some consider his leaping ability to be magical, but I’m fairly certain it’s natural. Most of the fey consider it a blessing to be licked on the forehead by him — except for the brownies, whom Boomer chases around like they were cats. They’ve taken to keeping tennis balls with them to distract him while they’re cleaning.

Oh, dear, are you all right? Sorry to yank your arm so hard, but that was Hannah. I didn’t hear her coming in time to warn you. No, of course you didn’t see her, she’s a phantom. She works with the music editors, and rackets around the hallways on a little phantom motor-scooter when they’re not looking. At least, that’s what they say is going on. None of us have ever seen Hannah, but she’s put bruises on almost all of us at some point.

Here we are, then, safely into the Pub. See those curly, cuddly dogs in the corner? That’s our pack of bouviers des Flandres. They’re a joint project of Gus the gardener and Mrs. Ware, the cook, actually. Mrs. Ware’s cousin Danny is blind, you see, and has a bouvier as a service dog. The organizations that train them are always looking for places to foster the pups, and when Danny started courting Gus’ daughter Ginevra who works in the stillroom, well, both Mrs. Ware and Gus fell in love with the dogs. Ginevra and Danny never made a match of it, but, to make a long story short, we’ve been raising bouviers des Flandres here ever since. Any dog raised in a Pub like ours will be socialized to handle anything, after all, and there’s usually at least one blind harper or shanchaí around for the pups to practise on.

There are usually at least a few guest dogs here, too, accompanying visiting authors or musicians, or perhaps here on their own like poor Jamie. Fenrir is over there by the fire. He travels with The Old Man, though I’m not sure it would be appropriate to say Fenrir belongs to him. Indeed, you might just as well (or just as safely) say that The Old Man belongs to Fenrir. At any rate, Fenrir is supposed to be an Irish wolfhound, but he’s a giant if he is. He’s nearly as tall as I am when he stands up, and he can put his front paws on the mantelpiece.

Sit down, then, and have a glass of something cheering. What’s wrong? Are you choking? Allergic, you say? Patrick be my shield and buckler, why didn’t you tell me you were allergic to dogs, then?

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Estate Canines

What’s New for the 2nd of December: Live music from Iron Horse, Peter Pan, Swamp Thing, The Beatles, and other comforting things as well

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home. ― Edith Sitwell

No, it is not Winter yet but I like that quote a lot and the forecast is for a harsh Winter here so we’ll all be looking for the small pleasures ones takes when that happens.

That is a muffin filled with a hard boiled egg at its centre and with smoked crumbled bacon and dried onion in the batter. Quite ymmmy. Oh and cheddar cheese as well. It and a thermos of tea with cream make for a rather nice and filling breakfast for me to toss in my mackinaw pocket before I go for a ramble towards The Wild Wood just after dawn breaks on this unusually pleasantly warm very late Autumn day which I’ll be doing as soon as I finish off this edition for your reading pleasure.

It’s not surprising food and drink on this remote Scottish Estate play a crucial role in the life of the small year-round community that swells significantly with visitors for music festivals and conferences in the warmer months but folds in on itself by late Autumn for the most part.

Now let’s turn to this Edition…

Of Brian Attebery’s The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin Grey says that while ‘it’s clear that this book is written for a primarily academic readership, the writing style is smooth and not ponderous. It’s a little dry, but dry like a pleasant white wine, not like a mouthful of saltine crackers. Attebery gives plenty of examples to illustrate his points, but not too many examples. Occasional readers of fantasy could give it a miss, but those who read fantasy devotedly or have an interest in the genre as a whole will want it for their reference shelf.’

Kelly gives us a look at a book by someone who we might not have expected to be an accomplished writer: ‘Evenings with the Orchestra gives not just a fine example of critical writing in nineteenth century Paris, nor even just a good illustration of the cultural life in that time and place. It does all that, to be sure, but most importantly it gives us a personal look at the inner world of one of Romanticism’s greatest composers. It’s a book that is full of humor, fire, and love of music. So it should be, having been written by Hector Berlioz.’

Some books we’ve reviewed more than once, as they had multiple editions. So it is with the classic book Marian has for us this time: ‘This is a strongly recommended edition of Peter Pan. It is faithful to the original text and is complemented very well by the imaginative illustrations of Greg Becker, which bring to life the story by J.M. Barrie.’

Richard says that ‘Elizabeth Hand’s Winterlong is not an easy book. It challenges the reader from the first page – really, the first sentence. It sprawls across genre boundaries as if they weren’t there, effortlessly mixing mythopoeic fantasy with horror with post-apocalyptic science fiction with Shakespeare. It is rich, filled to bursting with ideas that are so integral to the world and yet so thoroughly understood by the characters that there’s never a moment of slam-on-the-brakes exposition. ’

As a break from bleak winter skies, Robert brings us a collection from a Greek poet in exotic Alexandria, The Complete Poems of Cavafy: ‘Modern Greece has produced an amazing body of literature including works by such luminaries as Nikos Kazantzakis, George Seferis, and others. One of the most significant members of this select community is the poet Constantine Cavafy. The Complete Poems of Cavafy as translated by Rae Dalven presents the body of his work for the non-Greek speaking reader, and has the added grace of including an Introduction by W. H. Auden.’

Denise checked out Swamp Thing: The Series, and while she loves the title character, she felt there was  more that could have been done for ol’ Swampy. ‘It’s a completist’s treasure, but a well thought out “Best Of” set with the lesser episodes removed would have been a better crafted, more enjoyable collection.’ Read her review to find out more!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Second Season, says Will, is very satisfying and ‘The general reason this season is great is because it’s about love in many forms. A specific reason it’s great is the Spike and Drusilla romance. They’re the first ongoing villains who touch Buffy’s personal life. In their case, it’s initially through Angel: Angel sired Dru, Dru sired Spike, and when Angel turns bad, he’d like some fun with Dru again, though his obsession with Buffy doesn’t abate.’

Denise starts prepping for her yearly ‘Feast of the Seven Fishes’ with a review of Bay Harbor All Natural Smoked Wild Kippers. She’s pleased with what she’s found. ‘These kips are strong with the smoke, but slight on the salt. It’s fantastic.’ She promises a full seven fishy reviews by the time Christmas rolls around. So read this one and keep coming back for more!

It’s definitely that time when that if you’re like me, that you’re craving extra carbs and Cheesy hash brown casserole is a recipe on which Jen has an open riff that’s delightful and makes the dish sound warm: ‘Here is a tump recipe I got off the back of a bag of hash browns and then messed with. There are no rules with tump recipes. Change the ingredients, the proportions, the oven temperature—this is your recipe now.’

Given that the DC Universe streaming service is launching a live Doom Patrol series next year (and the teaser on the Titans series there was fucking awesome!), it’s an excellent time to read Richard’s review of Doom Patrol: Crawling from the Wreckage graphic novel: ‘The Doom Patrol had always teetered on the lunatic fringe of super-groups, due in large part to the fact that many of the characters were gimmicky, unlikable, or just plain strange. Wheelchair-bound genius Niles Caulder was Charles Xavier with Doctor Doom’s people skills, manipulative and megalomaniacal. Of his team, the most human and sympathetic was the orange-plated Robotman, and things went rapidly downhill from there. And did I mention the fact that the entire team had been killed off at least once?’

Chris says ‘Forty years after the groundbreaking progressive rock classic Thick as a Brick, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull brings us Thick as A Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock? Is he Too Old to Rock n’ Roll? Hardly. This album is all the proof you need.’

Gary takes a look at a new version of an old favorite: ‘Well here we are again, celebrating another 50th anniversary of a ground-breaking Beatles LP with a deluxe, remastered reissue. This time it is the double LP The Beatles, otherwise known as The White Album…’

Kathryn Tickell & Ensemble Mystical’s Ensemble Mystical gets reviewed by Naomi: ‘For those of you not familiar with Kathryn Tickell, she is an ultimate listening delight. Kathryn is an accomplished piper and fiddler. She comes from Northumberland, which is one of England’s largest counties, and has put out a number of CDs. Kathryn actually picked up the Northumberland pipes at the age of nine for the first time, and I’m happy to say she didn’t put them back down but kept at it.’ Oh and there’s a carynx involved as well!’

Robert rediscovers Depeche Mode — again: ‘Somewhere along the line, I rediscovered Depeche Mode. I pretty much had everything available up through Depeche Mode 101 (which I didn’t think much of — it’s one of the worst live albums I’ve heard), but on a whim I picked up a copy of Songs of Faith and Devotion and finally got around to listening to it. The die was cast. I then got a copy of Playing the Angel.’

Our What Not this week is yet another highlight from Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: The Labs (Well, says Robert, it’s a big place — there’s lots to see): ‘As you wander around the upper level gallery at the Field Museum, you will run across several large glass-fronted rooms in which people are doing mysterious things. These are several of the laboratories where technicians are working, and you can watch.’ Prepared to be amazed.

Something lively, something trad I think should be our parting music this Sunday, so let me have a few minutes to see what I like… ‘Black Crows and Ravens’ from Iron Horse, a sort of trad Scottish band I think is no more, recorded this at Gosport Easter Festival in April of 1996, is my choice this time. I say I think as many of those groups, provided all of their members are alive unlike say Nightnoise have a tendency to show up for one-offs pretty much without notice.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 2nd of December: Live music from Iron Horse, Peter Pan, Swamp Thing, The Beatles, and other comforting things as well

A Kinrowan Estate Story: Herne

Some hold that the Green Man is but a Celtic myth retold by the English as a sort of ethnic cleansing of the native culture. That is bollocks as there’s really no Green Men in English myth either, no matter what Lady Raglan claimed back in the period between the Wars. But there is a Lord of The Forest who is far older and far bloodier than any Green Man might have been had he existed. Read his story below …


His voice was like moss on the bark of an ancient tree … deep and smooth, making you expect velvet. And then you touch the bark and it is cold, cold and with a hardness like stone under it.

I first heard it in the small courtyard off the Long Hall, where sometimes people go to get out of the heat of the hall fires, and rest their ears from the storytelling. I’d been sent out with a tray and a bottle of one of the oldest whiskeys, and told to deliver it to whoever I found there. I didn’t think too much of that — you get orders like that all the time from Reynard — so I went right out to the one table with people sitting at it.

He was a shadow darker than the shadows of the walls, sitting in the twilight; light from the windows gleamed on the glass in his hand, the metal at belt and wrist and knee, the gleam of his eyes — like cold sparks struck from a flint. Calm radiated off him like cold from a stone, too. Coming near to him was like wading into heart-high water. You felt yourself slowed and surrounded.

That surprised me, that he breathed out such a vast, calming peace. If you’ve heard his train whooping through the nights, men and horns and hounds howling all alike under the moon, you’d never expect their Lord to be so … quiet. There’s a solace in his company, and in that deep, sweet voice. At least when you catch him a quiet moment, drinking in the moonlight with a lady.

She was sitting on a cushion, her head against his knee, her pale hair flowing like starlight over them both. Their voices were low and easy as they spoke, with the rhythm of long years’ intimacy between them; like the voices of your parents through the walls in the middle of the night – you hear just a moment of their conversation as you burrow into your pillow, inexplicable and remote and far, far older than anything you know — but the sound means all is well in the world, and you go back to sleep comforted. That was what they sounded like.

I don’t know who she was, though her face had every beauty you could ever imagine in a woman. I didn’t know who he was, until he shifted into the light from the Hall window. Then, what I had thought were vine-shadows on the wall behind him were plain to see — the great branching antlers, like amber and ivory and iron in the dim light. And I just stood there, staring like I’d never seen any of our older, stranger guests before, like a booby. But when the Lord of the Hunt is looking into your eyes, it’s damned hard to remember you’re only there to deliver his bar order and not to be judged eternally . . .

You’ll get a better judgment, of course, if you do remember to give the Lord his order. I can testify to that, because when I finally got my wits together enough to put the tray down and display the label, he smiled and thanked me in that deep voice.

I don’t know why anything ever flees from him, with that voice . . . I could have stood there, drowning in it, forever. Which I guess he knew, because he dismissed me very kindly, so I could remember I still had a body and walk away. But the singers in the Long Hall sounded like crows when I went through, after the dark voice in the dark courtyard.

They still do.

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate Story: Herne

What’s New for the 25th of November: Doctor Who goes Victorian, cornbread, music from Nightnoise, concert hall staples, color photography, and there’s a bite on the air

The roasting, the feasting and the hours of horseplay helped to create a special warmth on this cold, hard day. Then the fire was stoked and fed to make a warm place where there could be dancing until darkfall. Martin was very drunk. Rebecca danced alone, wide skirts swirling, hair flowing as the accordion wheezed out its jig, and feet stamped on the stone flags at the edge of the field, where the pit had been dug. — Robert Holdstock’s Merlin’s Wood

It smells this afternoon, if you venture outside, like Autumn should: tannin from the ancient oaks and wood smoke, thick with resin from the spruce scarps being burned in the fire pit near this Hall. It’s got a bite on the air, but not enough to be unpleasant. And I’ve got enough readers in the Library for it to pleasantly busy without being hectic as it is if the weather turns too nasty.

I’ve already dressed warmly and taken my long walk for the day, a morning sojourn with the Estate wolfhounds, complete with a thermos of tea and a breakfast ham and cheese biscuit in a pocket of my mackinaw, out towards one of the Standing Stones and back. Now I’m quite content to tackle my paperwork and assist folks here as need be. Let’s turn to this Edition while I see what Irish trad music I’ll see you off with on this Autumn day…


Grey has a fairy tale collection for us: ‘So what does Iona and Peter Opie’s The Classic Fairy Tales have to offer that makes it worth being reprinted numerous times since its first publication in 1974? Chiefly this: collected here are twenty-four of the best-known traditional fairy tales as they were first published in English. The earliest is “The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his small stature surnamed, King Arthvrs Dwarfe: Whose Life and aduentures containe many strange and wonderfull accidents, published for the delight of merry Time-spenders,” dated 1621. The text from which “Hansel and Gretel” — the last tale in the collection — is taken was published in 1853.’

Susan Gaber did the illustrations for The Princess and the Lord of Night, which Marian notes was written By Emma Bull, who ‘is best-known to readers as a writer of urban fantasy novels, including War for the Oaks, Bone Dance, and Finder. She is also a musician involved with the bands Cats Laughing and the Flash Girls. However, in this book she turns her hand to writing fairy tales, and is, in my humble opinion, very successful.’

Robert brings a look at, of all things, a museum catalogue, but one that’s quite out of the ordinary: ‘William Eggleston is one of a small group of people who created color photography as a viable medium in art. William Eggleston’s Guide, the catalogue for an exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976, is a group of approximately 50 images that served to establish Eggleston’s reputation as a major figure in American photography. In addition to Eggleston’s astonishing photographs, the book is graced by a brilliant essay by John Szarkowski, the legendary Curator of Photographs at MOMA.’

Stephen says of an Alan Garner work, which is definitely aimed at adults, that ‘These are only the questions which I find myself considering today. When I read Thursbitch again (and I will), they may be different, as they may be for you, when you read this book. The reasons for this are that Thursbitch is a book that casts the reader as an enthralled participant, rather than a passive recipient. It is, to repeat, a mystery. It may unsettle you (if not actually give you nightmares), but you’ll love it unequivocally nonetheless.’

Our Editor looks at a Doctor Who adventure beloved by many fans of the series: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang which featured Tom Baker, one of the most loved of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. That it is set during the Victorian Era is something that British have been fond of setting dramas in, well, since a few years after the era ended. Doctor Who has had stories set in this era myriad times.’

Kage says ‘With The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, alas, the malign gods were paying attention and behaving not unlike Terry Pratchett’s Auditors, practically warping time and space to mess with Terry Gilliam. They failed to ruin the film — Munchausen is magnificent, and a fitting conclusion to the Trilogy of the Imagination — but they ruined everything they could, to such an extent that Munchausen is unfairly and incorrectly called one of the most expensive disasters in cinema history.’

There’s Jiffy Corn Bread (25¢ a box when I was a bride, and a great help) and then there’s scratch corn bread, such as the bride makes from good old Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook (with the faux red-and-white-check tablecloth cover), and then there’s real scratch cornbread. That’s what you get when you do all the right things to make the chymical magick of corn bread happen perfectly. Do it Jennifer’s way and you’ll amaze them all.

Remember Abe Sapien? Well, if you don’t, Robert has a look at three stories about him: ‘Among the many spin-offs from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is the series Abe Sapien, relating the exploits of the eponymous hero, the amphibious man introduced as part of the B.P.R.D. This collection, The Devil Does Not Jest, is the second Abe Sapien collection and contains three stories.’

Ian Anderson at the Beacon Theater a decade ago says Chris was wonderful: ‘This show was billed as an acoustic performance, and fans of the band were not disappointed. For years we hoped Anderson would do an acoustic album– The Secret Language of Birds (2000) and Rupi’s Dance (2004) albums filled that need, and his solo performances work from that mindset.’

Judith looks at at something strictly Irish trad: ‘Natural Bridge is a delight for session musicians and traditionalists. More progressive Irish music enthusiasts should keep in mind that it is a record of earlier 20th century styles and thatLennon and his friends are making little attempt at innovation.’

Play Each Morning Wild Queen gets praised by Michael: ‘The Flash Girls were the musical equivalent of Thelma and Louise, a pair of wild women musicians who’d taken their songs on the road, spreading chaos behind them merrily. They’re what happens when you throw in the Celtic rock talent of Cats Laughing or Boiled in Lead, the peculiar English sentiments of Neil Gaiman, the urban phantasms of one “Colonel” Emma Bull, and the genius of “The Fabulous” Lorraine Garland, self-styled Duchess of Hazard, into a blender and serve chilled with a twist of lime. Or, to put it another way, it’s what happens when some really creative, talented people got together and decided to have some serious fun.’

Robert brings us some holiday music of a different sort: he calls them ‘warhorses’, the concert-hall staples guaranteed to please an audience, presented in Hi-Fi Fiedler, a recording by the master of ‘light classical’: ‘Arthur Fiedler has the distinction of being the best-selling classical conductor of all time, due in no small part to his immense popularity as the musical director of the Boston Pops, a post he held for fifty years. His recordings of so-called ‘light’ classics and orchestral settings of show tunes, jazz, and popular songs sold 50 million copies during his lifetime. After listening to this collection, it’s not hard to see why.’

Our What Not this week is yet another trip to Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, this time to take a tour of the Nature Walk: ‘About halfway down the west side of the Field Museum’s Stanley Field Hall, the three-story central atrium of the Museum, there is the beginning of a boardwalk with a sign announcing the “Nature Walk” (not to be confused with Lincoln Park Zoo’s Nature Board Walk, although there are some similarities). The entrance is between two dioramas depicting birds at the potholes that dot the Great Plains of North America (or used to: 90% of them are gone).’

Ahhh now that’s a rather fine piece of music! ‘Toys, Not Ties’  which was recorded by Nightnoise at Teatro Calderon, Spain on the 23th of April, 1991. Now I admit it is not strictly speaking an Irish trad band by any stretch though the band did include siblings of the late Ó Domhnaill and  Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill who were was raised in Kells, County Meath in it.  The band also included the late Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham who was honoured here in in a memorial concert.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 25th of November: Doctor Who goes Victorian, cornbread, music from Nightnoise, concert hall staples, color photography, and there’s a bite on the air

A Kinrowan Estate Story: Guest Lecturer

Well, now. Mackenzie has asked me in as this for tonight’s guest lecturer. He likes to keep these seminars going through the summer months, you know, when otherwise the staff and denizens of the Green Man get too caught up in the long days and short nights in Oberon’s Wood. Remember, Masters and Mistresses, you are supposed to be writing about books, here.

And what does it mean, to write ‘about’ books? Hey? Any of you bright-eyed boys and girls ever paused to think about it, in your rush between the reference stacks and Jack’s in barrel? I’ve seen that barrel, and a mighty void it is, too. What are you all about as you proffer your analyses of art to the waiting ether?

Some might consider it a self-referential waste of time, especially the business of review and literary critique. ‘Them as can, do,’ the saying goes. ‘Them as can’t do, teach. And them as can’t do neither, criticize.’ Of course, that old saw is usually trotted out by someone who has written a bad book and been caught at it. There is power and skill needed to review a tale properly, so as to catch the casual reader’s interest and send it on like a well-aimed sling stone to find the original work itself.

But you may need to ask yourselves – and a frightening question it is – are you committing metafiction? When you write about another’s world, are you outlining the borders for the uninformed, or extending them? Are you lighting the path or creating a detour? It’s not my business or concern to tell you that — no, it’s not, so you can put away your notes and that dismayed look, young woman — it’s merely my intent to make you think about it. To read deeply and then to talk about it is a serious thing.

We all walk into books hoping. We hope for joy and mere amusement; for fulfillment of a dream and the filling of an idle hour; for a clear look at something we have glimpsed in dreams, or the first look at what has been unimaginable. When we consent to read a tale, we’re consenting to a journey that we have to take on faith. We hope to be well and safely conveyed the whole way, and not left robbed of our time by some nameless roadside. We trust the writers to know the way and show us all the best sights. At their best, all writers take us on the perfect road; at your best, you are sharing your experience on that road.

Consider yourselves cartographers, ladies and gentlemen. Every book opened is a new world discovered. Worlds are vast things. They harbor as much danger as delight; neither one is always easy to find, and maps are required. Not all worlds will sustain life — a warning to the explorer behind you on the road can give warning that ahead is a deadly insufficiency of oxygen, or warmth, or wit. A bright red ‘Here Be Dragons’ pulls in as many eager travellers as it warns off the timid ones: someone languishing for the company of dragons may never find their heart’s desire without your directions.

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate Story: Guest Lecturer