Welcome to GMR

If you haven’t encountered us before, read on; otherwise skip to the fortnightly edition which is up every other Sunday morning and which alternates with a Story on the other Sunday morning.

Everything that interests us as a diverse group of individuals will get attention here, be it Rock and RollIrish music, a  jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,   Folkmanis puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novelsfiction inspired by folklore, sf filmsegg nog recipes,  ymmmy street foodchocolatewhisky and cookbooks… Well you get the idea.

Stories about the Kinrowan Estate will show up every Wednesday, be it Gus the Estate Head Gardener talking about pumpkins; Reynard, our Manager of the Green Man Pub located in Kinrowan Hall, sharing stories; Zina on the Neverending Session and Midsummer as well; or even Iain, our Librarian, talking about life there such as the Several Annies, his sort of Library Apprentices.  And you’ll see material from The Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house newsletter for our staff, such as Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Gardener here in the Victorian Era, on a tree spirit. You might even meet Hamish, one of the current hedgehogs living in the Library who sleep the Winter away in a basket near the fireplace in the New Library.

So if you’ve got something you’d like reviewed, whatever it might be, email me here as you never know what’ll tickle our fancy.

PS: you’ll also get to hear some choice music here every week such as Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

PSS: If you look to the far left of the standing menu, you’ll see Words. That’s where you can find the various pieces of fiction that authors have given us exclusive permission to reprint here. Some are excerpts such as from Charles de Lint’s Forests Of The Heart whigh is reviewed here or DEborah Grabien’s The Weaver and The Factory Maid with the review thisaway.

Other are full stories such as Solstice by Jennifer Stevenson, or poems such as ‘The Sturgeon’s Wife’ by Catherynne Valente. Some exist too as audio readings by authors of their work as you’ll note by the link at the bottom of the ficy ion piece where they exist. There’s just a few pieces up now but more will follow. 

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What’s New for the 20th of September: Autumnal Folkmanis Puppets, Demon Detectives, British Mysteries, Soundscape Designers, and more

The stability of the Glitter Band depends on social cohesion, Mister Garlin. We don’t have standing armies, we don’t have a citizen militia. Even the local constabularies constitute a vanishingly small proportion of our population. But this system only functions in the absence of malicious fear-mongering. I have no time for those who disseminate lies and half-truths for their own ends. ― Prefect Tom Dreyfus in Alastair Reynolds’s Elysium Fire

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Come in, let me turn down the music which is all live Oysterband this afternoon. It’s Autumn today with a hard frost forecast within three weeks. Gus, our Estate Gardener, is busy organising work schedules for everyone who’ll be doing the harvest before that event occurs. It’s easier this year as we’ve no events on the Estate because of the Pandemic so everyone’s able and eager to help out. It’s a little earlier than ideal but weather is what it is.

The harvest this year was changed as we didn’t host any events so lots of what we’re farming this year will go to other Estates in this region. We’ll do everything strictly on a barter basis but somebody’s always interested in, say, lots of blackberries or pear cider in exchange for what they’ve got, say their version of feta cheese.

Lots more reading has been going on here as the staff has more leisure time without the events we usually host. Even the Pub’s been quiet so I’m working my way through all of Xuya Imperium stories of Aliette De Bodard while listening in off hours to Alastair Reynold’s Prefect Dreyfus Emergencies series. I include Chasm City in there even though Dreyfus isn’t in it as it deals with what happens to the Glitter Band.

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Cat has a story for us: ‘I don’t normally purchase a collection for just one story but the community over at File 770 was saying in a discussion of AIs that the Hugo Award-winning ’Cat Pictures Please’ was a story that the folks there who hadn’t read it should really read, so I went to iBooks and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other StoriesYes they were right — you really should go read  it, as it’s a unique take on what happens when an AI decides it’s concerns about us and wants to make us feel better.’

He then moves on to a full-cast production audiobook of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: ‘I spent nearly four very entertaining hours listening to the latest interaction of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, a full cast production that I swear was completely rewritten yet again for this production. Gaiman would win the 2015 BBC Audio Drama for Outstanding Contribution to Radio Drama for this series. He certainly deserved it!’

Triskell Press has released a digital edition of Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale, which Grey delightfully notes is ‘set in de Lint’s Ottawa, the one he first envisioned for his novel Moonheart, and expanded in its sequel, Spiritwalk. Those readers who have fallen in love with the wonderful Tamson House of these two novels will be delighted to note its brief appearance in Yarrow as well. However, the characters in Yarrow are part of different story than the residents of Tamson House and their associates, and Yarrow is a stand-alone novel.’

I‘ve said  it before that Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span always seem to evoke Autumn for me, so it’s fitting 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 Ashley 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.’

Robert has a review of a story about three very unusual detectives: ‘Camille Bacon-Smith’s Daemon Eyes is an omnibus edition of Eye of the Daemon and Eyes of the Empress, which tell the story of the half-daemon Evan Davis, who is part of a most unusual detective agency.’

Next, he takes us on a tour of Masks of the World: ‘Masks occur in every human culture I’ve ever run across, and their purpose is always the same: disguise. In the theater of ancient Greece, the disguise served to submerge the actor in the persona of the god or hero he portrayed. Among the Cherokee and Iroquois of North America, the fearsome headgear served to frighten malignant spirits away. In Mycenae, masks were funerary effigies, a practice found throughout the ancient world and also found among the great pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas. . . .’

Warner brings us a combination that may at first seem somewhat outré: Doctor Who: The Lovecraft Invasion is Robert Valentine’s look at the famed horror author through the lense of a Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama. Featuring a living weapon that feeds on the fears of its host, the tale quickly centers upon the titular author and takes a look at his creations and his flaws.

Warner next presents us with a story collection that falls into several different genres: ‘Carrie Vaughn is an experienced hand at urban fantasy, and Kitty’s Mix Tape is a nice collection of shorter works set in one of her milieus. These stories range from the distant past to after the end of the Kitty Norville book series, and feature a wide variety of characters from that setting. It is a fascinating range of stories that veers from detective fiction, to period romance, to war drama and beyond. Indeed, there is a little something for everyone in these stories, and as such they serve as an impressive look at Vaughn’s talents.

Jennifer feeds us mint juleps, chipotle-garlic potatoes, and a killer dark chocolate and lemon brownie cake, because life on lockdown is a clear-cut choice between eating heart-healthy and eating for your sanity.

Speaking of eating during lockdown, one never can have enough chocolate at hand to eat, can one? Robert has three Lindt Excellence  bars for us to consider, to wit Cocoa Supreme Dark Lindt Excellence.Intense Orange Lindt Excellence and Intense Mint. Read his review to see which he really, really liked.

Denise on the other hand looked at some snacks for you —  DeLallo Flat Fillets of AnchoviesFamily Volcano Popping Candy of the lychee variety and Huang Fei Hong Spicy Crispy Peanut. Those should keep you snacking happily!

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It’s Autumn which to me is the perfect time to start watch some British mysteries so I’m going to recommend three for you — Gosford Park, a Hercule Poirot Christmas story and a Doctor Who episode.

David starts us off with Gosford Park: ‘The film begins, as do most studies of murder in British society, by setting the tale. We meet an inordinate number of people (an Altman trait) who come and go with little logic. This is a common enough ploy in the films of Robert Altman, everyone has a reason for being there, and everyone has a story. Pay attention.’ Oh and what stories they tell!

Nect up is Poirot’s Christmas as reviewed by Cat: ‘Ahhhh, an English locked room mystery set at Christmastime! What could be a better diversion on a cold winters night with snow falling outside? I had heard that this DVD was a perfectly faithful adaptation of a beloved Agatha Christie novel so I asked Acorn Media to send along copy for review.’ Yes DVD. It was reviewed a long time ago.

Finally we have a Tenth Doctor story, ‘The Unicorn & The Wasp’ which hep also reviewed: ‘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.’

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It got made into a video series but I think the original series is far superior. You may remember Garth Ennis’ landmark series Preacher. Well, for our graphic offering today we have a collection of Glenn Fabry’s covers, Preacher: Dead or Alive: ‘You’re an artist, and you’ve been given a very unusual task. Create eye-catching, evocative comic book covers, month in and month out for a new series. The main characters include a hitwoman, a vampire, a preacher possessed by the Word of God, an unstoppable killing machine fueled by divine wrath and mortal hate, a conspiracy to take over the world, and God Himself.’

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Cat leads off our music reviews with a look at a recording from Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelly and Charlie Pilzer’s Hambo in the Barn: ‘Back in the twentieth century, a lot of Scandinavians relocated from Sweden and the surrounding countries to the upper Midwest where they became farmers and shopkeepers for the most part.  Naturally they brought both their instruments and their music with them. Not surprisingly, this music has persisted to this day which is why this lovely CD exists.’

Gary has a review of a recording by a group called numün, a trio of ‘soundscape designers’ from New York. He says voyage au soleil is a ‘combination of American and Balinese instruments, synthesizers and loops. It’s ambient, it’s soundscape, it’s collage and more, and I personally find this kind of thing a balm during these chaotic times.’

Speaking of Fairport Convention, the group has had many a boxset in its over fifty-year existence and David looks at one of them, Fairport unCconventional: ‘Eleven lead singers, eleven lead guitarists, six fiddlers, seven drummers, five keyboard players, two bass players, four CDs, one 172 page book, a Family Tree from Pete Frame, a poster by Koen Hottentot, a history of Cropredy, some interesting loose papers and ads, a postcard for a 5th CD and a program from Martin Carthy’s birthday celebration! Whew! Does Free Reed know how to throw a party? Until further notice this box is the anthology of the year! Don’t miss it!’

Gary tells us about Cells Remain, by Midwestern bassist and singer-songwriter Pat Keen. ‘On the surface it’s a sort of singer-songwriter album, featuring Keen singing his songs with baritone-to-falsetto facility, accompanying himself on six- and twelve-string guitars with equal or perhaps surpassing facility.’

The Nashville-based duo called Anne Malin has a new offering that Gary reviews: ‘Sleep, dreams and reveries predominate in Anne Malin’s Waiting Song, a deeply personal and quirky album of country-tinged indie folk-rock.’

‘Brian Scarborough is a trombonist and composer with influences that include two of the great centers of jazz in the Midwest: Kansas City and Chicago,’ says Gary, who reviews his debut solo album Sunflower Song.

Scott was lucky enough to attend a Hoven Droven concert at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis that later became a two-CD live set. ‘All in all, Jumping At The Cedar is a fine example of what a Hoven Droven concert sounds like, and fans of the band will certainly enjoy it.’

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Our What Not this time is about the Folkmanis Puppets of an Autumnal Nature, or at least that’s how Cat defined them. They were the ones Cat asked Folkmanis specifically to send and then he handed off to various staff members for review. So here’s the review of these wonderful puppets.

The Worm in Apple puppet gets reviewed by Robert: ‘One of the more unusual items to cross my desk from Folkmanis is their Worm in Apple Puppet. It’s a nice, big apple — not shiny, since it’s made of plush, but it is very appealing — unless you count the small green worm peeping out of a hole in the side.’

Next up Denise looks at the  the Chipmunk in Watermelon puppet. While she’s as entranced as ever by this company’s creations, there’s one quibble. ‘Mine looks as if he’s suffering from agoraphobia. Exo-karpoúzi-phobia, maybe?’ Read her review to find out what’s going on…

She finishes off with the Mouse in Pumpkin puppet: ‘All hail the spice! Pumpkin everything is the rule of the day this time of year, and I’m all for it. Give me my pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pies,spicy roasted pumpkin, and pumpkin crumble. And okay, a PSL or two while we’re at it, though I’m more a Chestnut Praline Latte gal myself. So when Folkmanis decided to indulge my love of the orange squash, my grabby hands eagerly shot out. And I’ve been snuggling with this adorable puppet ever since.’

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Our music this time is the rave-up by the Oysterband of their ‘The Shouting End of Life’. It was recorded in Bremen, Germany on the 3rd of April 1996. It was first released on the album of the same name a year earlier. It’s the take of John Jones on Thatcher and her ugly politics. It memorably has lead vocalist John Jones saying ‘Go fuck yourself.’


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A Kinrowan Estate story: Pub 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 spent as much time as we could 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 them 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


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What’s New for the 6th of September: A Very Special Science-Fiction Story, a Fairy-Tale Opera, Dr. Who, a Rising Country Music Star, and more

If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written. John Bangsund, Australian SF fan, 1939 – 2020

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Its not yet the time of year that the Estate orchards smells of cider and and rot in equal amounts, but it’s not that far away as the temperature  went down to four degrees last night as a low. Granted that’s well above freezing, but the Kinrowan Hall heating system kicked on as it was far too cold to be comfortable. However the orchards are yielding rather fine ciders this year as the weather has been perfect fir apple ripening.

And then there’s blackberries in great quantity which Björn, our Brewmaster, is delighted to making into a rather fine Himbeergeist style schnapps. I’ll be stocking it here in the Green Man Pub when it’s aged properly.  Of course we’re also doing a rather nice pear brandy too.

In the meantime, you can savour this first edition of September which is published in the transition from Summer to Autumn. I’ve even included some live music composed by Aaron Copland.

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Cat looks at the urban legend retold yet again of a ghost girl asking for a ride home on the anniversary of her death: ‘Seanan McGuire decided to tell her own ghost story in Sparrow Hill Road which, like her novel Indexing, was originally a series of short stories published through The Edge of Propinquity, starting in January of 2010 and ending in December of that year. It appears they’ve been somewhat revised for this telling of her ghostly narrator’s tale but I can’t say how much as I’ve not read the original versions.’

We have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets a look by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unraveling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

Robert has a look at a couple of Elizabeth Bear’s earlier novels, starting of with a vampire story, of a sort: ‘Elizabeth Bear’s The White City is the third installment in her ongoing saga of Sebastien de Ulloa, vampire and wanderer in a universe somewhat different than out own in important respects.’

He follows that with a very special science-fiction story: ‘At her best, Elizabeth Bear can deliver the kind of hard-edged poetry that one often searches for in vain in science-fiction. (She also does some hard-nosed fantasy, but that’s for another review.) It may seem strange to talk about “poetry” and “science fiction” in the same sentence, but one need only read Dust to see exactly what I mean.’

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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.’

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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 also 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.’

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I look 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.’

No’am has a review of Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King: ‘The practice of writing quasi traditional songs may horrify some, but it’s been my experience that such songs are much richer to our ears than the “finger in the ear” standard diet. Whilst I imagine that this fine disk will be labeled as “contemporary folk,” it’s difficult to picture any of these songs being played in a folk club by one person with an acoustic guitar. Modern technology is necessary in order to present these songs in their full majesty, and we are all the richer for Maddy and her merry men having done so.’

Vonnie looks at a darkly tinged album: ‘An Echo of Hooves has June Tabor returning to what, in my mind, she does best, delivering ballads or songs that tell a tale. For this she has chosen eleven Medieval ballads. Some of them are very well-known, like “The Cruel Mother,” “Hughie Graeme,” “Sir Patrick Spens” and “Bonnie James Campbell”. Others are new to me.’

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I really dug the eleventh season of Doctor Who, and I love the new Doctor. And this SuperBitz plushie tribute to her is absolutely adorable. 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.

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.

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Our Coda this week is a twofer from a young country music star.  Robert says of the first song, “This was the first song by Cameron Hawthorn to come to my attention.  Billed as his “coming out” song, it’s a nicely romantic, almost nostalgic piece:

And here’s his newest song, a melancholy piece about a first love that wasn’t:

Strangely, Hawthorn doesn’t seem to have come out with an album yet. Soon, we hope. .

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Gingerbread

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I hope you’re enjoying the still-hot-from-the-oven gingerbread with a scoop of Madagascar vanilla ice cream on it. Bet you another piece that you don’t know the history of this culinary treat, do you? Thought so. So do take another piece and I’ll tell you all about it.

Our gingerbread is the Swedish version which actually is Germanic in origin. It came to my nation with German immigrants in the same way that Christmas traditions such as greeting cards, Christmas trees, even wreaths came to Great Britain with German royalty that married into the English royal family. Thus it was that gingerbread is a Swedish delicacy that we bake here. During the thirteenth century, gingerbread was brought to Sweden by German immigrants. By the fifteenth century in Germany, a gingerbread guild controlled who could bake it.

Gingerbread in German is Lebkuchen or Pfefferkuchen (pepper cake). Properly spiced gingerbread has a slightly peppery taste, not strong but definitely there.

Several sources note (no writer cited) that ‘In Germany gingerbread is made in two forms: a soft form called Lebkuchen and a harder form, particularly associated with carnivals and street markets such as the Christmas markets that occur in many German towns.’ The hard gingerbread is made in decorative shapes, which are then further decorated with sweets and icing. The tradition of cutting gingerbread into shapes takes many other forms, and exists in many countries, a well-known example being the gingerbread man.

Though our gingerbread is spiced like the Swedes, ours is moist cake instead of thin biscuits (cookies as the Yanks call them) that tastes delicious warm with, as I noted above, vanilla ice cream. Oh and we don’t put raisins, candied orange peel or other such things in our gingerbread.

So would you like yet a third piece?

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What’s New for the 23rd of August: Kage Baker on Peter Beagle, dark fantasy, Brahms-a-rama, other somewhat Autumnal matters

I did not want to think about people. I wanted the trees, the scents and colors, the shifting shadows of the wood, which spoke language I understood. I wished I could simply disappear in it, live like a bird or a fox through the winter, and leave the things I had glimpsed to resolve themselves without me.  ― Patricia A.  McKillip’s Winter Rose

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Impressive, isn’t it? When we built the new Library in the late eighteen century, we moved the Pub here to top floor of the cellar. And we made sure the Greensward facing side had as much glass as possible. So that means for you that every sunrise, barring inclement weather, is visible here and with all of them being spectacular indeed.

The chair you’re sitting in is commonly known as The Falstaff Chair as Estate lore has him telling tales in it one winter’s night. Yes I know he’s fictional but I’ll bet you’ve got characters and stories you believe strongly are real. So do be careful what you think of while here as nightmares as well dreams can come true …

I see you’re reading Solstice Wood by Patricia Mckillip. I assume you’ve read Winter Rose already? It’s sort of a prequel to the book you’re reading but not quite so. Both are excellent reads, though I prefer Solstice Wood to read again. Now let’s see what we found this time…

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Liz has a choice morsel of Tolkieniana for us: ‘In Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon Brian Rosebury presents a critical assessment of the entire body of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. He also attempts to locate Tolkien within Literature and the History of Ideas and to examine the “afterlife” of Tolkien’s works in today’s popular culture. He sees the book as both a complete introduction to Tolkien and his works for general readers, and as a critical analysis for fans and scholars. A shorter version of this book appeared in 1992. This new extended edition was written in the light of new scholarship and two new developments: the publication of Tolkien’s unpublished manuscripts by his son Christopher, and the release of Peter Jackson’s film version of The Lord of the Rings.’

Robert — no, not that Robert, a different Robert — brings us a look at James Morrow’s The Asylum of Dr. Caligari, which he rates as somewhat difficult: ‘I knew from the title that the story was at least related to the classic silent horror movie, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with which I am only passingly familiar. That was not as great a handicap as I’d feared. . . . I did not, however, anticipate the amount of artistic theory and discussion that I would find within.’

And Robert — no, not the other Robert, the regular Robert — has a look at Anne Bishop’s Dark Jewels Trilogy: ‘I have to regard The Black Jewels as something of a landmark. I don’t think it will spawn a host of imitators — how could it? It is so individual as to defy imitation. Aside from my reservations about the portrayal of villains and madness, it is a marvelously rich tale inhabited by fascinating people who, in spite of their differences, are more human than we have any right to expect.’

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Robert takes us back to the nineteenth century and one of his favorite composers of the Romantic era, with a look at two recordings of works by Johannes Brahms: ‘Johannes Brahms was, to put it mildly, one of the more thoughtful composers in the history of Western music, as evidenced by the fact that, although he is known to have been working on a symphony in 1854 (never finished, although parts did find their way to the Concerto for Piano in D Minor and the Deutsches Requiem, his first, the C Minor, was not published until 1877, when he was forty-four.’

And more Brahms: Robert also takes a look (a listen?) to one of his favorite pieces of music, Brahm’s Quintet for Piano and Strings in F Minor, Op. 34: ‘We’ve run across the thematic material in the Piano Quintet before, in the two-piano treatment of the Sonata in F Minor, but here the character is somewhat different: that Brahmsian bigness that is somewhat muted in the Sonata is here given greater scope, and the feeling of a symphony orchestra lurking in the wings waiting to jump in is that much more prevalent.’

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Our What Not is about Peter S. Beagle, who is not only of one our best storytellers ever, but also without doubt one of the best loved as well. We decided to ask some of the many writers who’ve passed through our pub, errrr, offices what their favorite piece of fiction by him was, and why so. Their answers run from the obvious choices, i.e. The Last Unicorn, to some that greatly surprised us.

Kage  pondered her answer — ‘How to decide? The Last Unicorn probably had the greatest effect on me, reading it as I did at an impressionable age and learning there that fantasy could cut through the mannered, medievalist crap and speak sharply of real life. I See By My Outfit always delighted me and still does, as it must delight anyone who has ever been young, dumb, brave and On The Road. To take off across the country on motor scooters (of all things), sleeping in tents, trusting in fate, having adventures — yeah!! But my all-time favorite Beagle character I met in The Innkeeper’s Song: the little, little fox with soft fur…’

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Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ is a definitely dark take on the Sandman myth for which vocalist and rhythm guitarist Hetfield wrote the lyrics as it deals with the concept of a child’s nightmares. The lyrics such as this stanza, ‘Hush little baby, don’t say a word/ And never mind that noise you heard / It’s just the beasts under your bed / In your closet, in your head’ are as dark as any tale was that the Brothers Grimm collected oh so long ago.

This hour long concert was played acoustic outside with the sound transmitted to the listeners on wireless headphones so as not to disturb the the residents who weren’t human. Here’s what their website had to say about it:

This was the most unique show Metallica has ever done. The band, contest winners, research station scientists (from Russia, South Korea, China, Poland, Chile, Brazil and Germany), and the ship crew, all crammed in this little dome out on the helipad of Carlini Station in ANTARCTICA! The energy in the little dome was amazing! Words can not describe how happy everyone was.

The band cranked out 10 songs for the small crowd including Creeping Death, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Sad But True, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Master of Puppets, One, Blackened, Nothing Else Matters, Enter Sandman, and Seek & Destroy.

No word on if there were any penguins were attendance.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Fall (A Letter to Tessa)

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A letter from the journal of Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, to her friend who was in Constantinople as of this letter. Alex, as she was known, copied her personal correspondence into her Journal. She noted in her will that her letters were to be part of the Estate Library upon her death. Isabella would live to well over a hundred, even longer than Her Queen would!

Dear Tessa,

Though it’s hot and dusty where you are, Fall arrived here this week. Though it’s warm by mid morning, we’re now in the high thirties overnight and the days are now substantially shorter. No frost yet, but I won’t be surprised to see it early this year, as the past fortnight has seen clear nights with very low dew points and not a breath of wind.

I’ve had my staff doing last preps on the firewood with the best (oak, ash, spruce, and maple) being reserved for the Kitchen and the Library, as I swear no one else really appreciates how good it is. Head Cook put in a claim on whatever applewood is to be had, for he loves the smell. We also cleaned up the spruces of dead branches and old cones this week so they’ll be used to start fires as they’re high in pitch.

The orange tabby you named Gefjen has lived up to her name as she’s most definitely pregnant! Right now, she’s hiding in the rooms of Isabella, the new Librarian, when she’s not looking for warmed milk and bits of meat from the Kitchen Staff. Oh, I do wonder what the kittens will look like!

You sadly missed the dance we had in the Courtyard under the Oaks that are now changing their colours, which is early for them, suggesting another harsh Winter is coming. We had a guest caller up from London who introduced the Neverending Session to a tune book he had with him called Thomas Skillern’s Twenty Four Country Dances for the year 1780 which has many a lovely dance tune in it. The dance lasted ’till well after midnight and even the Kitchen staff slept in, so we all had a very late breakfast.

The blackberries we planted several years back are now in full force though I admit I hate them, for trimming their canes in a month will be a beastly exercise! Oh, but warm blackberry tarts with vanilla ice cream on top are oh so wonderful. There’s also a promise of blackberry wine as well.

One of the Several Annies, Ingrid, had a handfasting with one of my lads, Angus, this week. You’ll remember her as you taught her how to press summer flowers properly. The Steward granted them use of a crofter cottage provided they fix it up. Angus is keen to restore the Mill Pond dam so we can use it as a proper skating pond and a place for curling games. We now use the field that floods every Winter and freezes hard for those games.

I must be off now as there’s a butchering going on of the pigs as it’s time for smoking hams and such so I need to select the pigs to be killed.

Affectionally yours,


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What’s New for the 9th of August: two London based urban fantasies, Devolving Europe Festival, Oysterband live and other interesting things…

There’s nothing for your comfort in the place where I was born 
Someone’s got the roses ’cause my people got the thorns; 
My people are the poor ones, their country made of stones 
Their wealth is in persistence, in stories and in bones

Oysterband’s ‘One Green Hill’


Autumn will be soon upon us –  Summer’s already waning as the plants in our gardens are just now showing their form of botanical entropy, which puts them on their last legs before first frost kills them off entirely. So Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, and his staff has been drying beans and apples, preparing root cellars for carrots and the like, braiding strings of onions and garlic, sending cornucopias of produce to the Kitchen for Mrs. Ware and her staff to pickle, can or freeze as they see proper.

And you want to know about all the banners flying high in the rafters of the Great Hall? They represent some of the ‘lost’ nations of Europe, such as Alba, Andalucia, Breizh, Catalunya, Crsu, Cymru, Eesti, Elsasz, Euskadi, Føroyar, Friesland, Gallega, Jura, Kernow, Mannin, Northumbria, Occitania, Samiasne, Savoie, Ulster, Vlaanderen, and Wallonie. These all have delegates here, as do some newly re-emerged nations such as Slovenia and Kosovo, for The Devolving Europe Festival, which is being held here for the next two weeks.

(One of our reviewers, Richard, looked at a fictional take on a very fractured Europe in reviewing David Hutchison’s Europe in Autumn and its sequel, Europe at Midnight.)

Now, these are not advocates for violent overthrow of the existing order, but rather like-minded folks who know that keeping their local cultures alive in an age of an increasingly homogenized European society is a matter of food being prepared and shared, ale brewed and drunk deeply, literature being written and read, plays being performed, and music being played long into the night.


Un Lun Dun, a fantastic look at a London that is just out of sight, gets a very detailed review by Kathleen: ‘China Mieville (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, The Iron Council) is renowned for the world he has created around the great, multi-species, many-storied city of New Crobuzon. Those are adult works, beyond a doubt: ferocious and frightening, full of the incandescent mysteries and fatal sins of maturity. At the same time, one of the conundrums of Mieville’s style has been the sense of a small boy peeking through his writing; the kind of little boy who delights in snot and crawly bugs, who chases his sister with a frog and forgets to take that interesting dead bird out of his lunch box. Sometimes this gleeful grossness amuses the reader in turn. Sometimes it seems unnecessarily provoking. But it has always reminded me of how young Mieville is.’

Richard finds another book in that genre: ‘Hidden, magical London is all the rage these days. First there was Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, then China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. And now there’s Mind the Gap, a collaborative effort between American novelist and comics writer Christopher Golden and British horror novelist Tim Lebbon. To be sure, that’s fast company for any book to be in, but Mind the Gap manages it more than respectably, and is an enjoyable, engrossing read that delivers plenty of thrills while deftly avoiding the numerous clichés lurking in wait for it.’

Rebecca likes Celtic Memories, a collection of stories, songs, blessings and charms retold by Caitlín Matthews and illustrated by Olwyn Whelan. Rebecca thinks this book would work wonderfully for reading aloud to children, and ‘Whelan’s pictures are charming, with bright, bold colors and a very Gaelic fondness for spirals and swirls.’

Robert was appreciative of booth the content and the cover art of Glen Cook’s A Cruel Wind: ‘Many years ago I read Glen Cook’s first Dread Empire trilogy, A Shadow of All Night Falling, October’s Baby, and All Darkness Met. I was impressed. Here was a heroic fantasy that cast aside the mold of Tolkien and Andersen, incorporated what was useful from Leiber and Moorcock, and then struck out on its own. Night Shade Books reissued the trilogy in an omnibus edition, graced with another of Raymond Swanland’s expressionistic covers, A Cruel Wind, and believe it or not, it’s better.’

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The Robin Hood legend has been used for better worse times in print and video including a memorable retelling in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but Cat found a possible unique telling in the Robin of Sherwood series: ‘If the Robin Hood that had Patrick Bergin at its centre was a telling of Robin Hood as the embodiment of the Saxon/Norman conflict, Richard Carpenter decided to make his series an explicitly Celtic telling. ‘Celtic’, you ask, ‘How so?’ Well, let’s start with Robin having as his Lord, Herne the Hunter! Yes, The Hooded God Himself! OK, so how did Carpenter get to this vision of Robin? Why Robin as the Hooded Man?’


A book by Evan McHugh on Irish pubs and drinking Guinness really, really disappointed Gary: ‘I love good beer, and I love to travel. I also enjoy reading about both. I find beer writing more interesting than wine writing, because beer experts tend to be less stuffy about their craft than wine experts. And a good travel writer can make you feel almost as though you were along for the ride. So I jumped at the chance to review Pint-Sized Ireland: In Search Of The Perfect Guinness. Writing about travel and beer! What could be better?’ Now read his review to see why this was not sorority him.


Robert brings us a look at several takes on Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic. The first is Gaiman’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.’


Alistair looks at a release from the Celtic Fiddle Festival: ‘Play On is the fourth release from a group of musicians who had no real intention of continuing as such beyond a one-off concert series in 1993. The enthusiasm, both on and off stage, generated by that project, which featured three of the Celtic world’s most noted fiddlers, Irishman Kevin Burke, Scot Johnny Cunningham, and Christian Lemaitre from Brittany has resulted, twelve years later, in hundreds of performances and numerous successful international tours.’

David sees Jean-Paul De Roover at the Pearl Company: ‘It was a quiet Thursday, and my wife was having some friends over. I had received an email about a last minute concert at The Pearl Company, but with such short notice I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. Rich couldn’t make it, Ralph wasn’t home, Jesse was away, and so on. I had to go out to allow the ladies space, but did I want to go to a concert alone? I could just go to the bookstore, have a coffee, browse for a couple of hours. Ah, what the heck, it’s five bucks, and maybe it’ll be good — after all, the review online compared this guy to Robert Fripp.’

Gary found ‘moody, dynamic music’ played by Norwegian jazz bassist Mats Eilertsen’s septet on their album Rubicon. It ranges from the klezmer-influenced opening track “Canto” to other types of contemporary jazz, including the ‘atmospheric noir jazz’ of a tune called ‘March’ that Gary likes very much.

Bassist Mats Eilertsen also plays with the Nils Økland Band on their album Kjølvatn, which Gary says is ‘an acoustic, tradition-based project by (the) Norwegian hardanger fiddler.’ The band is a mixed folk and jazz ensemble making contemporary music that sounds ancient, blending folk and Baroque sources, ‘and always with a distinctive Nordic feel to it.’

Gary also reviews another recent jazz release, the Peter Erskine Trio’s As It Was. It’s a box set that collects all four of the trio’s albums released from 1993 to 1999, featuring Erskine on drums, Palle Danielsson on bass and John Taylor on piano. Gary says ‘It’s four hours of music that covers nearly all the bases of contemporary piano trio possibilities, from sublime ballads and melodic post-bop, to a bit of swing plus lots of abstract contemporary works.’


It won’t surprise you to discover we’ve all got favorite reading places, mostly in the Kinrowan Hall (mine is my hidden space behind the Bar). So it didn’t surprise me that Zina has a cool place, one I hadn’t thought of: ‘The landing on the staircase on the first and second floors, with the window seat. I tend to disappear into my books, so noise and people walking past is never a problem. Maeve is not a ‘drape yourself across the reading material’ sort of cat, so as long as I’m not taking up her favorite pillow, she’ll deign to let me sit with her for a while and sometimes will even purr for accompaniment.’


As you might have guessed from the lyrics at the top of this edition, the song this time, is ‘One Green Hill’ as recorded off the soundboard on Bremen, Germany on the 3rd of April 1996′. There’s a splendid version of it on their Alive & Acoustic album which I think is the same cut on their Granite Years and Trawler collections.


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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Wood Between The Worlds

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Gutmansdottir, 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 summer ale is something she calls The Wood Between The Worlds.

She first noticed something wasn’t quite right late autumn afternoon, several years back when she heard a commotion headed towards her. For sometimes 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 box 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 lose track of both of them and went back to cataloguing plants.

Winter that year fought a fascinating encounter that she and another staff member saw when they were skiing through another area of the wood after dark on a night when the Aurora Borealis was particularly bright. They had reached the top of a tall hill when they heard a fiddle playing a spritely tune that neither recognized. So they looked for the fiddler and found a being that looked almost human bout wasn’t when you saw her close him as her eyes had no irises and her ears were slightly pointed. Not like the Truebloods who live across the Border but definitely something akin to them. They listen to her for quite sometime before they continued on to home.

It took little time for her to realize that gross of all sorts were commonplace here and that none of them would harm mortals though each other was another as she had watched the two old kings fight for hours and rather brutally hacking away at each other. She noted that they were the only ghosts that was always there though not everyone could see them.

Gutmansdottir 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 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 red human 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 Gutmansdottir 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 the Estate Building.

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

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What’s New for the 26th of July: Ravens musical and otherwise, Totem Poles, some novels by Charles de Lint, new music and old music, and Other Matters

One flies in to case the joint,  boldly struts around.
Two fly in to make it three,  laugh a while and knock each other down.
Four flies in with a frowning walk  gains a laugh from out a squawk
but it’s five who owns the place  and proves it with a look, stopping
six and seven in their tracks from smuggling a book.

SJ Tucker’s ‘Ravens in The Library’

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The only Raven I’ve ever known to be let in the Library is Maggie, the one eyed corvid that showed  up here one late Autumn with a damaged wing and a scarred over eye some decades back. She can’t fly all that well anymore as she has a certain lack of balance from the eye damage and the wing,  which even with the assistance of our hedgewitch Tamsin, didn’t heal right so she sticks close in the trees just beyond the outside Library entry and has her own nest just inside that door so she’s safe at night and in bad weather.

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Gary reviews the first book in a new fantasy series, Kevin Hearne’s A Plague of Giants. It begins with the invasion of the continent Teldwen. ‘Five of the six peoples in Teldwen have a kenning or mystical power that is linked to them as a people, and to the place where they live, and perhaps to the spirit or god of that place. A Plague of Giants, in addition to being the story of the war sparked by the giants’ invasion, is also the story of the discovery of the sixth kenning.’

Phil Brucato’s Ravens in the Library: Magic in the Bard’s Name anthology was done as a fundraiser for SJ Tucker who was seriously ill at the time. Tucker’s doing much better now but do read Leona’s review to see why you should seek out this stellar work for a fine summer read!

Richard looks at a novel I’ve enjoyed reading several times:’Seven Wild Sisters, a collaboration between Charles de Lint and Charles Vess, holds no surprises, and that’s a very good thing. The companion-cum-sequel to their earlier collaboration The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, the book delivers exactly what it promises: Gorgeous illustration and an encounter with the otherworld that’s ultimately more about wonder than it is about peril.

Robert starts off a review I think is perfect for Summer reading this way: ‘I’ve long followed Charles de Lint’s writing, starting with, if I remember correctly, Moonheart way back when, and I’ve been as close as I ever come to being a fan for years. (I even got my hands on some early stories, somehow.) So when I was asked to do a review of The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, I said, “Yes. I haven’t had a chance to read de Lint in a while.”’

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Robert’s discovered a nifty kitchen short-cut for those fond of Indian cuisine: Trader Joe’s Masala Simmer Sauce: ‘I know one thing about Indian food — I love it. I don’t claim any real expertise in that particular cuisine (although I do have an Indian cookbook stashed away around here somewhere), but one of my favorite nice things to do for myself used to be to go up to an Indian restaurant in the neighborhood and hit the buffet — then invariably, I’d waddle home and take a nap.’

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The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is an expansion of a much shorter work by de Lint and Vess entitled A Circle Of Cats which Mia says is ‘is not a novel, or a novella, or even, at 44 pages, a chapbook — those are merely convenient labels assigned by publishers and booksellers to assist them in categorization. Call Cats instead an enchantment, a weaving of words and pictures into pure magic. Charles de Lint is adept at converging the mundane world and the Otherworld: at touching them together briefly to produce intense moments and life altering episodes, and then gently letting each world retreat from the touch and settle back into its own normality, usually with both sides all the better for the experience.‘

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Reaching way back in our Archives, Asher has a look at Aliens Alive, a Nordic recording that definitely stretches musical boundaries — ‘Annbjørg Lien finds, in folk music, everything from fairy tales to science fiction. Indeed, the title of her previous album, Baba Yaga, is drawn from a fairytale. Aliens Alive is a selection of live performances culled from Annbjørg Lien’s 2001 Norwegian tour.“

Ahhhh, summertime and the living is fine indeed which is why Gary says ‘The Sadies’ In Concert Vol. One is my feel-good disc of the summer. Put these discs on, crank up the volume, and rock out!’

Robert takes a look at a recording that rapidly became a favorite: Morton Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet: ‘I’ve remarked before on Morton Feldman’s propensity to shape sound with silence, a tendency he shares with Toru Takemitsu. Listening to Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet, a late work, written two years before his death in 1987, I realize that the juxtaposition of sound and silence in Feldman’s work is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.’

And now, Robert takes us back in time, about 600 years, more or less, for The Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin: ‘In spite of the dearth of records concerning his life, we do know that Josquin was the foremost composer of his time. Although his music was largely overshadowed by that of Palestrina and Tallis for literally centuries, Josquin has, over the past hundred years or so, been rediscovered.’

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For this week’s What Not, Robert takes us to one of his favorite places, and one of his favorite parts of that place: Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: The Alsdorf Hall of Northwest Coast and Arctic Peoples: ‘I’ve come to think of the Field Museum as the “everything museum” — from evolution to paleoanthropology to conservation to meteors: it’s all here. . . . One of the more intriguing areas is the Alsdorf Hall of Northwest Coast and Arctic Peoples, which is just what it claims to be.’

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I’m going to finish this edition out with Tucker performing ‘The Raven in The Library’. This performance is at ConFusion in Troy, Michigan on January 23, 2010, and the performer you see here with Sooj is Betsy Tucker.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Green Lady

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If we’ve left the impression with you that we’ve only encountered only Green Men on this Scottish Estate down the centuries, that’s not correct. There’re stories about The Green Lady in Sleeping Hedgehog, our Estate community newsletter, as far back as the Sixteen Hundreds.

Sometimes she appears completely human until you get close enough to see that her apparently tanned skin is ‘nought but fine grained wood. Though there were other  times she was definitely nothing more than a plant vaguely shaped like a woman. The Welsh have Blodeuwedd, a being made of roses and owl feathers, but that’s not this being. She’s all plant from her toes that restlessly seek the nearest soil to her hair that looks to be tangled dreads but is actually very fine -eafed strands of ivy which are always moving.

Like the Green Men we see here, none of them speak. However, none of the Green Ladies plays an instrument whereas all the Green Men do, but instead they seem to be all gardeners instead. I’ve seen them in our gardens, apparently talking in a low rustling voice to them. I know that I said that they didn’t speak but what I’ve heard is something far older than our speech is. Something felt in my soul more than heard with my ears.

One was apparently tasking bees to do certain pollination, an impressive task that Gus felt was more a dance of thousands than mere work. They don’t take notice of we mortals, fey or human alike, but neither do they not know we’re there.

I assume they live in the Wild Wood but not even Gutmansdottir, our resident botanist studying that region, has seen them there.

Now, shall we head over to the Pub for some of the mead that’s been made from the hives they tend? It’s a truly blessed drink.  

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