A Kinrowan Estate story: Foxes

PThough fox hunting by the gentry was common in Scotland for centuries, this Estate never allowed them to be hunted here, so the Estate foxes have thrived. Even when we had a Gameskeeper here, before we abolished that position and created the Estate Head Gardener position that I now hold, they were safe from being hunted.

There are, roughly speaking, two types of foxes here — those who like humans and those who really could do without us. Given the size of the Estate, both types can easily find their preference here. There’s a long history of the human inhabitants here noting in The Sleeping Headehhog who were the foxes they were especially interested in.

There was Tess, who according to the Estate Ghillie, had a burrow down by one of the salmon breeding pools; he fed rabbits to her and her kits during a particularly bad winter; there was the fox that bedded down with the Irish wolfhounds who guarded the sheep; there was one fox that, based on his markings, was estimated to be over thirty years old, an impossible age for a fox, even in captivity; and one Estate Gardener swore he had not been drunk when he had a conversation with a ghost fox out in the Wood.

The foxes that are truly wild are harder to get a handle on as they avoid us at all costs. Some have only been glimpsed, being known as individuals solely because of their unique characteristics, such as the male known as Diamond as he had a perfect white diamond bit of fur on his forehead, or the one called Broad Arrow as he had such a marking on his back.

So if you visit our Estate, do take the time to look for our foxes. It’ll be worth your while to do so.



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What’s New for the 30th of October: Spooks galore! Stephen King, Ellen Datlow, William Gibson; Halloween on screen; bad Dracula; Singing Bones, Metallica on cellos, scary chocolates and more

Tom Skelton shivered. Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve. Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked. — Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree


Now where I was? Ahhhh, having a pint of  Dark Hollow Stout while enjoying this fine October evening — first frosts and earthy leaf-mould and the bitter tang of wood smoke, and the smell of the winter yet to come — while thinking of what there is for Halloween songs…

I’m now watching with rather great amusement the Mouse in The  Wainscotting musicians — over  pints of Autumn Ale, a libation with a rather earthy taste —  debate what dance tunes they are going to play on All Hallows Eve in the Courtyard where the bonfire will be lit for that most sacred of nights in the Celtic Year. A great deal of thought goes into the set list on the part of the musicians and the caller.

Their list of possible dances so far includes ‘All Saint’s Day’ right after ‘All Hallow’s Eve’, ‘The Black Hag’, ‘The Booship’, ‘The Discorporation’, ‘Draper’s Graveyard’, ‘Gathering Pumpkins’, ‘Ghoul in the Wall’, and ‘Jack O’Lantern’s Health’.  Gus chimed up that’d be appropriate to do ‘ The November Reel’ as a coda after the dance concluded. It was composed by Keona Mundy of Cleia, a brilliant band whose recording he recently heard.


April observed some thematic similarities in two otherwise disparate Stephen King books: the hefty tome Under the Dome and the slight novella Billy Blockade, which she reviewed together. ‘In both these stories, King effectively portrays the kind of horrors we’d like to believe people wouldn’t inflict on others, and yet they do. His examples may be extremes, but they’re reminders of the fears that lurk in the darker shadows of our psyches.’

And April turned in a hefty tome herself, in the form of a thorough review of the first three books of King’s Dark Tower series: The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, and The Wastelands, the saga of Roland. ‘Roland is the last of a dying breed, the last of a dying age: a worn and weathered man with naught left but his guns, his memories and an unyielding desire, nay, overweening need, to overtake the man in black. We meet Roland as he’s chasing his quarry across a nameless, faceless wasteland, always behind, but slowly, inexorably closing the distance.’

Cat always has good things to say about the anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow, and that includes Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror. ‘Nightmares is a companion volume to an earlier work, Darkness: Two Decades of Horror, which covered the previous twenty years of horror literature. If you’re looking for an excellent look at the last thirty years of horror, I’d say these two volumes will do nicely.’

Lis starts off her her with Ben Aaronovitch’s The October Man (Rivers of London #7.5): ‘ I like the characters, the story is interesting, intricate and satisfying. It’s also quite fun to get the German perspective on the British and the Folly, including Tobias’ study of every detail the Germans have on Detective Constable Peter Grant. It seems there’s a lot of possibility for both rivalry and cooperation between the two magical law enforcement organizations. I’d really like to see some of that.

Let’s not give away what happening in the story Lis reviews of Roger Zelazny‘s A Night in the Lonesome October: ‘ Snuff is our narrator, here, and he’s a smart, interesting, likable dog. He’s the friend and partner of a man called Jack, and they are preparing for a major event. Jack has a very sharp knife, which he and Snuff use in gathering the necessary ingredients for the ancient and deadly ritual that will be performed on Halloween.’

Speaking of William Gibson (you were, weren’t you – and if not, why not, what with the superb new adaptation of his The Peripheral now airing on Amazon Prime?) our archives contain Wes’s enthusiastic overview of Gibson’s “Sprawl Trilogy” – Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. ‘It challenges while entertaining, and explores cyberspace as if it were Tartarus, a demanding land where ghosts and spirits interact with data, where riches are to be had as credit, or information, where Baron Samedi, Papa Legba, and their cohorts manipulate the land of the living. It is certainly worth reading, and will likely remain a benchmark, a staple of science fiction, for years to come.’


Denise here. Shh, don’t tell Cat, but I’ve hijacked this edition’s film section. Because what’s better on Halloween than a look at some spooky films? Ready? Let’s go! *cue spooky background music*

First off, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a mix of possession horror and courtroom drama. ‘As children, we all thought about things living in our closet, underneath the bed, or in the basement. Dark, scary things that made us jump into bed, calling for our parents when things became too much to bear. As we got older, creaks in the stairs late at night gave us the chills, and we called out to friends or told ourselves that it wasn’t anything but a sure sign of shoddy home craftsmanship. But are those things signs of the devil among us?’

Next up, something a bit more fun and action-y; Underworld Evolution. ‘This is a good film that only suffers from the potential the first film laid out. A common curse with many sequels, but one that doesn’t harm the basic story of this film . . . if that’s all you’ve got.’

Something for the kiddies, perhaps? Why not try The Haunted Mansion? ‘Stir it up, keep it loud, and everyone will think they’re watching something really cool…. This is a lovely film to look at, but there’s not a lot of substance. Just double-check to make sure any young children you take are up for a pretty good scare.’

And last, but certainly not least, Halloween III. Because the OG Halloween has been done to death, so why not check out the sequel that’s not really a sequel, now that Halloween Kills is currently in theaters? This film’s divisive as hell, but I sure did enjoy myself writing up my thoughts…and though it’s grown on me since, I stand by my words when I first watched this film. ‘There are some reviews that are meant to have you rush to the theater. Others will leave you to decide whether or not to head out to the multiplex (or rent the video). Then there are reviews that serve as warnings, specifically designed to save the movie viewing public unnecessary pain and agony. This review falls into the latter category.’

Gary reviews a film that’s not spooky, but it’s new and timely and currently making the round of festivals, Abby Berendt Lavoi and Jeremey Lavoi’s Roots Of Fire. ‘Anyone who enjoys Francophone Louisiana roots music and music documentaries in general will love Roots of Fire. The film focuses in particular on the young musicians who are bringing Cajun music into the 21st century, honoring their past and their forbears while moving the music forward and making it their own.’


Denise has many a Halloween treat – and one trick – for us all this fine day. First off, she digs into a Cadbury Screme Egg. No, not creme. SCREME. ‘I recommend splitting an Egg with a friend, or saving a half for later. I’ve done the stomach work, so you don’t have to overindulge. Unless that’s your thing. Then? Happy Halloween!’

Next, she indulges in a four pack of Chocolats Passion Skulls. ‘The attention to detail is staggering; I can barely draw a straight line, yet these beauties have red in their sockets, golden teeth, and a splash of gold on the “parietal” that could be the sun glinting on them…or the reason for their demise. Six of one, half dozen of the other, I say.’

Need a drink after all that candy? Denise obliges with Flying Cauldron’s Butterscotch Beer! (We don’t dig TERFs here, but we do dig interesting mythology…and soda.) ‘Flying Cauldron’s Butterscotch Beer is a light, fizzy soda that’s non-alcoholic, for the wee muggles/no-mags in your life. Don’t think that means adults won’t like it, however. As cream-esque sodas go, it’s not that sweet.’

Aiming for something savory rather than sweet? Denise’s review of Aldi’s Happy Farms Preferred Transylvanian-Romanian Cave Cheese is sure to satisfy. ‘There are two types on offer, the regular and “soaked in red wine.” Naturally, the wine version went into my tote.’

Last but not least, a treat that was more of a trick for our stalwart foodie; Dunkin’ Donuts’ Spider Donut. ‘Impressive, no? No. It’s a mess. Somewhere, Mary Berry is sobbing.’

Whatever you decide to eat and drink this fine Halloween, have a wonderfully spooky time!

If you’re looking for a graphic treatment of the story of Vlad the Impaler, the historical ruler who was the purported inspiration for the character we’ve come to know as Dracula, Robert has some advice for you: Don’t look for it in Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón’s Vlad the Impaler: The Man Who Was Dracula. ‘The characters are cardboard, the action is trite, the graphic and narrative elements are a mismatch, and it’s all thrown into perspective by the appearance of the Count Dracula — or a caricature, at least — in the last two pages. This book has to be a put-on.’


A new recording, Sweet Tooth deftly blends Indigenous music with folk, jazz, hymns, field recordings and more, Gary says. ‘Aptly described as “a suite for Indigenous resistance,” this suite from Wabanaki jazz bassist, composer, and songwriter Mali Obomsawin is all about the way Indigenous peoples’ adaptation and resilience have fueled their art and culture – in this case, specifically of Wabanaki people.’

Gary reviews a new release from a new ensemble. Bach to Folk is by Lodestar Trio, three fiddlers from Norway, Germany and Sweden. ‘These days I particularly enjoy music that combines roots or folk music with other traditions including jazz and classical. The musicians of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland seem particularly adept at this sort of thing: Norwegian guitarist Jakob Bro, the Swedish ensemble Väsen, Finnish accordionist Maria Kalaniemi … the list is long and includes a lot of fiddlers. Add to the list Lodestar Trio.’

Gary reviews Love Hurts, and he found it not painful at all. ‘The third studio album by Finland’s folk quartet Enkel is an altogether enjoyable affair. Enkel is Finnish for angel, and Leija Lautamaja, Miia Palomäki, Maija Pokela, and Iida Savolainen indeed sing like angels, sometimes solo or in duet, sometimes all four together in the intricate and rhythmic harmonic style that’s made other Finnish group popular worldwide. In addition, two of them play melodeons, one the viola, and one the kantele, a dulcimer-like affair also known as a psaltery.’

From the archives, we found a few reviews that felt right for the current holiday season:

Big Earl had mixed feelings about Firedancing, a CD of neo-klezmer music with influences from reggae, Roma music, and more. ‘Souls of Fire is a British group who take their influences from the klezmer recordings of the Twenties and Thirties, among other related sources. Although they add a more modern twist to their music, this disc sounds rather like any early traditional recording compilation that you’ll come across. And that’s a compliment.’

Chuck reviewed a stack of Celtic CDs, and his favorite seems to have been Gill Bowman’s Toasting the Lassies, a set of Robert Burns’s more colorful – or is that off-color – songs. ‘Bowman has one of the nicest singing voices I’ve heard. It’s a very polished voice with a sense of knowing. Or maybe I’m just partial to women who sing – and know how to sing – bawdy songs. While the CD doesn’t include Burns’ more colorful lyrics, there are definitely some very suggestive songs here.’

Singing Bones sounds scary, and Gary found lots of spookiness on this disc by The Handsome Family. ‘The setting of many of the songs on Singing Bones reflects the move from the urban blight of Chicago to the blasted desert-scapes of the Southwest. No more songs about snowy parking lots and elevated trains this time. Instead, the songs feature couples shooting their beer cans with rusty rifles while the desert sun sets in “Gail With the Golden Hair”; lonely shoppers wandering the aisles of the “24-Hour Store” as ghosts make the automatic doors open and close; and amphibians singing as a lost gold-miner dies in “The Song of a Hundred Toads.” ‘

Does heavy metal scare you? It doesn’t scare Mia but she’s not the biggest fan, especially of Metallica. Two albums by the Finnish cello quartet Apocalyptica changed her mind. How so? ‘Heavy metal traditionally lends itself to images of anger, sexual abandon, and general debauchery. Apocalyptica strips the anger from the music, but leaves the darkness. If heavy metal is lusty, Apocalyptica is erotic. If heavy metal is cold malt liquor and busty bikini clad blondes, Apocalyptica is dark porter and absinthe and kohl-eyed velvet-cloaked sorceresses.’

Jack got all worked up about a cache of bootlegs by The Doors that he stumbled upon, and cranked out a review of his favorite album of theirs, The Best of The Doors. ‘I could rave as I’ve been known to do for hours about this CD, but why bother? Go get it, play it loud, and savour a truly amazing blues influenced band that still rocks. You’ll have have a frelling good time, or, well, don’t blame me as you obviously are lacking in your musical tastes!’



Our What Not is a matter of a very special pumpkin as Denise tells about the Folkmanis’ Mouse in a 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.’


I forgotten that Paul Brandon had sent us music by Rambling House, one of his bands. So here’s ‘Out in the Ocean’, a jig and a reel he wrote for them. Nice late Autumnal music, isn’t it?

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A Kinrowan Estate story: All Hallows’ Eve


Gus, here. All Hallow’s Eve is eight days away, and the Staff is deep in preparations. Mind you, a lot of those are just fun and games: putting up decorations and scurrying around with secret costume plans. Some of the more inventive around here won’t be able to move for the weight of their guisings on the night itself. Those who are already done are creeping about vying for dibs on copies of Charles Vess’ The Book of Ballads – we’re giving them away this coming month, and they are the most anticipated Treat in the place: a entire book/bag of bittersweets by the likes of Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman.

It’s a busy month in the gardens, but I am leading from the rear at the moment; sitting here and watching the main courtyard, wondering if the great oak there is going to win this year’s contest with my lads pruning deadwood. Our esteemed cook  Mrs. Ware has requested my feedback, as it were, on an experimental batch of triple Brie and fig scones for the annual Halloween feast, and it’s my pleasure to sit and give it my deepest attention. That woman brings inspiration to a plate of crackers and cheese; what she does to a risen dough enters the realm of the sacred …

For the Kitchen Staff, Reynard’s Tap Crew, and for my own lads in the garden, there’s a lot of real work leading up to Samhain celebrations. Mrs. W. is, as I said, already cooking: she’s been laying aside a veritable treasure trove of pickles, relishes, butters, marinades, sauces, curds, creams and other culinary conceits — when the freshly baked and just roasted masterpieces hit the tables, they will be accompanied by her usual astonishing condiments. Do you fancy pork roast rolled in leeks and apples, with whipped sweet potatoes in a cognac sauce? And new bread? Well, plan to move fast when it’s served, then, because so do I.

Reynard, of course, is both laying in appropriate potables and fretting over the batches brewed here specifically for All Hallow’s. All this month he’s been serving Headless Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Halloween Ale in the Pub. Come try a pint, but be careful! I’m told the name is not only seasonal, but a fair warning of the effects of over-indulgence. And there are the porters, the stouts, the dark brews like liquid bread that are required for this holiday; the cider and perry and aged brandies to keep off the growing chill and light the holiday bonfires in us all.

The Endless Session has been having night ceilidhs in the gardens, before the nights get too cold and they retreat to the Pub for the winter. Autumn evenings the wind rises in the woods, and gives the music in the courtyards a special pace and chorus … the secret’s in the pruning, of course, though I doubt the Session has figured that out. But I go out and do the trimming myself, tuning the oaks like an Aolian harp, so their voices will be clear on All Hallow’s night.

Most of all, though, my lads and I are responsible for the bonfires. No one cuts wood in my gardens except me and mine, and at this time of year I’m just as particular about the fallen wood as I am about the trimmed. That wood’s been gathered and stacked with great deliberation, you know. The Halloween bonfires have to be carefully planned, and meticulously built; I daresay the mix of firewood I use is as complicated as Mrs. Wares’ pumpkin butter or Reynard’s Samhain Stout. It needs a particular scent, a notable stamina and even special colour … which is why that one oak has to be pruned just so. The eastern boughs have seen soaking up the salt mist and should burn like tourmalines. It will make the perfect King Log … if that fool Andrew doesn’t hang himself with that guy rope!

Hi! Look sharp, lads! What are you about? We don’t do that anymore… But then you’re dead, so you wouldn’t know, would you?



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What’s New for the 16th of October: Fantasy maps, Bradbury mysteries, Middle Earth history; Cajun music on film; comfort foods; Daredevil; classical music reviews, and more

The soldier came knocking upon the queen’s door
He said, “I am not fighting for you any more”
And the queen knew she’d seen his face someplace before
And slowly she let him inside

Suzanne Vega’s ‘The Queen and the Soldier’


Here in this quite remote Scottish Estate where the nearest town’s a good fifty km away, the group of thirty or so souls here year round forms a community that’s at its most cohesive when the weather turns decidedly cold and oftimes unfavourable to travel. This ‘hunkering down’ is a gradual process that starts in early Autumn and doesn’t really end ’til after lamb season in April as it’s hard to be a good host when you’re covered with blood, shit and other stuff that’s unpleasant in general.

Pumpkins are versatile food here, so you can help us harvest them now that our first light frost has passed; likewise apples and potatoes need harvesting and proper processing for the uses they’ll be put to. Gus, our Head Gardener, uses the entire staff who must be properly picky at what they’ll be doing.

All work and no play makes Gutmansdottir an unhappy girl indeed, so there are contadances pretty much weekly here. Tonight a visiting band, The Black Eyed Susans, are playing. But first, let’s see what’s in this Green Man edition…


Geographies, both those in the mundane world and the imaginary ones as well, have something within them that fascinates readers. Cat starts us off with a look at Stefan Ekman’s Here Be Dragons: Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings: ‘Now we have a really detailed look at the role of fantasy maps and the settings they help create in fantasy literature. (Though weirdly enough, Here Be Dragons has only three such maps in it suggesting the author either had trouble getting permission to use more such maps or the use of them was deemed too costly.) It is not the usual collection of edited articles but appears an actual cohesive look at this fascinating subject.’

Craig has a look at three mystery novels by the venerable Ray Bradbury, as collected in an omnibus. See for yourself why Craig says, Where Everything Ends is a trio of fine detective novels (together with the short story that provided the starting point) from Bradbury in his inimitable style. He plays with the conventions, but since he so obviously loves the genre, this is easily forgiven — embraced, even — because the end results are, simply put, fine additions to the canon. This series is also dear to fans because it is likely the closest thing to an autobiography we will receive from this man who has brought so much joy to so many people for so many years.

So how about a major reading experience – whether or not you’re watching the current Tolkien adaptation on TV. Let me offer you The History of Middle Earth which is the extensive background Tolkien wrote for The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I suggest you get comfortable before reading Liz’s look at it as it is a very detail essay on this massive work: ‘The History of Middle-Earth offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine a great writer’s creative development over a period of 60 years. At his death, J.R.R. Tolkien left a huge body of unfinished and often unorganized writings on the mythology and history of Middle-earth. In The History of Middle Earth (HoME), his son, Christopher, has sought to organize this huge collection of drafts, revisions and reworkings into an organized and intelligible whole.’

We have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets a looked 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 unravelling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

Reynard reviewed Mark Cunningham’s Horslips: Tall Tales, The Official Biography: ‘Horslips were, and in many ways still are, the Irish equivalent of Steeleye Span and, to a lesser extent, Fairport Convention, as they blend English and Irish traditional material and a rock and roll sensibility into what was the first Irish folk rock group.’ Did they get ft hey deserved? Oh yes

Speaking of imaginary geographies, it’s appropriate that Ryhope Wood, the setting of Robert Holdstock’s series of the same name gets a book of scholarly papers largely devoted to it. Richard looks at Donald E. Morese and Kalman Matolcsy’s The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction: ‘The myth-infested landscape of Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood would seem to be fertile ground, not only for walking legends and “mythagos”, but also for literary criticism. After all, in the sequence Holdstock tackles not the structures of mythic fiction – dark lords, questing heroes, magical macguffins and so forth – but rather the concept of myth itself, and how the same core stories have echoed down through the millennia, amplified and distorted and reflected by centuries of human experience. The books start in a critical space, with scientist-protagonists attempting to unravel the nature of the wood and all it contains and it only dives deeper from there, familiarizing characters and readers alike with the tropes and concepts of discussion of myth.’

And what about geographies that are not imaginary? Robert has some thoughts on a book that may very well throw the distinction between real and imaginary out the window, namely, Denis Wood and John Fels’ The Natures of Maps: ‘You may wonder why the pages of Green Man Review, a ‘zine devoted to the roots of arts and culture, which purview most often results in insightful and intelligent studies of music, speculative fiction, and film, should play host to a discussion of a book on maps. Well, the subtitle of The Natures of Maps may give you a hint: the book is about “Cartographic Constructions of the Natural World.”‘

Steven has a look at a novel in a long running mystery series: ‘Tony Hillerman’s Hunting Badger was inspired by a real 1998 case that resulted in the murder of a police officer. The author refers to the case repeatedly but doesn’t offer any clues to its solution. Instead, he uses it as the springboard for a story that plays on Navajo history and mythology, with the “Badger” of the title turning out to be both a legendary Ute warrior and his son, the former having been thought of as a witch by mystified Navajos and the latter perhaps taking advantage of his father’s tricks following a murderous raid on a casino.’

has his own look at Middle-Earth, with The Great Tales Never End, a wonderful book of tributes to the late Christopher Tolkien. Next he looks at some classic detective fiction with Ed Lacy’s Room To Swing.
Warner says that Mindy Quigley’s Six Feet Deep Dish is ‘a paperback original on a clearly tasty theme’. While he is at it he looks at the latest Cambridge Bookshop Mystery, A Treacherous Tale.

span style=”font-weight: 400;”>He also talks about what is ‘in some respects a textbook legacy sequel” when discussing Will Do Magic for Small Change. Finally Warner checks out a collection by Ray Bradbury he describes as “a glorious collection of short stories by one of the masters of the form released by the Library of America.’




Gary reviews a new film currently making the round of festivals, Abby Berendt Lavoi and Jeremey Lavoi’s Roots Of Fire. ‘Anyone who enjoys Francophone Louisiana roots music and music documentaries in general will love Roots of Fire. The film focuses in particular on the young musicians who are bringing Cajun music into the 21st century, honoring their past and their forbears while moving the music forward and making it their own.’


We asked a goodly number of folks we encounter here this question: ”Is it a bowl of your mother’s fish chowder? Or a warm doughnut dusted with powdered sugar? Comfort food is as individual as each of us. We here at Sleeping Hedgehog (the in-house newsletter of our Estate) are interested in your story!’  Jennifer, a Winter Queen who’s responsible for the best Winter Solstice story ever, gives her answer here.

Robert delved into a superhero character that was new to him. ‘One has come to expect tight, absorbing writing from Alexander Irvine, and one is not disappointed in the Daredevil installment of the Marvel Noir series. Daredevil is not one of those superheroes who’s been very much on my radar, so I had the added attraction of a new character without, in my mind, any history to muck things up.


Kelly was highly impressed with Music of Russian Princesses: From the Court of Catherine the Great, by a group called Talisman: ‘Formed in 2000 by soprano Anne Harley and guitarist Oleg Timofeyev (who is noted for his expertise in the Russian guitar tradition), Talisman is dedicated to the performance and promotion of music from Russia’s little-known Baroque and Classical era, roughly 1750-1850.’

Kelly also had nothing but praise for Vladimir Horowitz’s Horowitz Live and Unedited: The Historic 1965 Carnegie Hall Return Concert: ‘Horowitz was known in life as “the Last Romantic,” and hearing his playing here, it’s not hard to see why. For all Horowitz’s amazing technique – there are no pianists today who have such command of the instrument as he did – he was celebrated all the more for the expressiveness of his playing. He had absolute control over the tone of the piano, and could make it sing better than any pianist I, personally, have ever heard.’

Mike admitted the Brazilian jazz on Morelenbaum2 / Sakamoto’s A Day in New York was out of his wheelhouse, but in spite of its being well received almost universally, he wasn’t having it. ‘OK, here it is: This is a CD of piano bar smarm Jazz. You know, “The Girl from Ipanema” type of thing. I confess that my opinion of this type of music cannot be adequately represented by anything original on my part.’

Robert was very pleased with an album containing two works by Morton Feldman, Rothko Chapel and Why Patterns? ‘These are two remarkable works by one of America’s most noteworthy composers. They are ethereal, energetic, thoughtful, and yet possessed of a kind of earthy reality. Their intellectual underpinnings, which are formidable, become invisible, and one is simply left with an event that is out of the ordinary. Hearing them is an engaging and enlightening experience, and one I can heartily recommend.’

He also found a lot to like on Trio Mediaeval’s Messe de Tournai, Words of the Angel. ‘One is struck in this recording by the clarity and transparency of their voices in singing music that was originally intended to be sung by men … The fact that the voices are soprano and alto rather than tenor and baritone really makes little difference here – there is the same otherworldly feeling to the music that one hears in chants rendered by male choirs, although there is an ethereal quality to some sections that I’m not sure male voices could challenge.’


So I’m going to give you as our What Not the late Kage Baker reading one of her own works, that being her Empress of Mars novella. It was supposed to be included on a CD in the limited edition version of the story that was going to be published by Nightshade Books but that never happened, so she gave us permission to publish it digitally. So find a quiet place to listen and settle in to hear a most excellent sf story told by a master storyteller!

Kathleen, her sister and a damn fine writer as well, notes that ‘she was an old-fashioned storyteller. She loved adding dimensions, and felt that all her stories should be either copiously illustrated or read out to an audience.’


If you’re truly fortunate, you’ll encounter a song that truly makes your heart ache for the raw emotion that it contains. For me, it was the song I heard sung by Suzanne Vega in some club down London way oh so many years ago: ‘The Queen and the Soldier’ which is breathtakingly mythic in scope and so damn personal that it hurts. All I know about the provence of this song is that it was performed in  London on the twenty fourth of October, thirty one years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Staging Shakespeare


Come in! Glad you got here in time for some theatre tonight. Let’s drop your kit off in the room you’re staying in for the next fortnight before heading out.

It shouldn’t surprise you at all that we do theatre in the colder months here at this isolated Scottish estate. And it further won’t surprise you that Shakespeare is a perennial favourite here century in and century out. So why is that playwright so popular?

Setting aside the literary genius of Shakespeare, he’s one of the easiest playwrights to stage, as the focus on the words allows for a minimalist staging to take place. Oh, I’ve seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream staged at summer solstice deep in an English wood, Macbeth performed in the ruins of a Scottish castle, and even The Tempest against the backdrop of a sullen sea. But those admittedly spectacular performances are only one side of a ha’penny.

The other side of that ha’penny is staged readings, just actors reading the words on a bare stage. Now that’s where you can really see who understands in their heart and soul the magic of Shakespeare, as you can hear that belief in the way they do the lines. Now if they’re lacking in that belief, the words feel as if they’re being read by a politician using a teleprompter for the first time.

We fall somewhere just off being a staged reading by making use of strategic props and even a bit of fey magic where appropriate, such as Lady Macbeth washing her hands in a basin on stage and her hands coming away in red that drips upon the front of her white dress, or using a skull in the gravediggers scene in Hamlet combined with an ever so convenient service stairway as the grave itself.

And I find that my Several Annies, the Library apprentices from around the world, all grasp the joy and agony of Shakespeare. Indeed one of them, I’m proud to say, is now a research fellow concentrating on the interstices between Shakespeare as a writer of fiction using history and Shakespeare as a chronicler of history without interpreting that history.

Enough of my prattling on, it’s time we headed off to hear the performance of Much Ado About Nothing in our Theatre in The Round, which is the former livestock auction house. Rebekah, one of my former Several Annies is directing it, a honour for her indeed!


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What’s New for the 2nd of October: Contradance music and Arabian fuzz, William Gipson redux, military SF and horror, soul cake, and more

The most complex programs in existence are used for consumer analysis. They’re everywhere, watching and analyzing every aspect of our lives. The amount of data gathered on any one of us is mind-boggling.
Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light


Care to have a pint of our new All Hallows Eve Ale? It’s quite good. I’ll get Finch to draw you a pint. I’ve been getting stellar comments about it from those who’ve had a few. Or a few too many.  Bjorn, our Brewmaster, always seems to enjoy creating new Autumn libations more than those he does for the other seasons. And he’s hinting that he’ll be doing an authentic Octoberfest beer very soon but he’s kept everything a secret from even me.

In the meantime, I’m writing up this edition as Iain, your usual host, is running through the tunes that Red Robin will be playing later this evening in the Sanctuary as he’s the caller. Two violinists, one smallpiper plus a mountain dulcimer player — all from Ashville, North Carolina — and it should be quite tasty to dance to.


Cat says for some time he’s been looking forward to a full length novel in P. Djèlí Clark’s Dead Djinn series set in an early 1900s alternative Cairo where magic has returned to the world. It’s now here in A Master of Djinn, which Cat enjoyed on audio. ‘Now let me be clear that this is a pulp story with a heroine who has her own sidekick and truly deliciously evil antagonists. The story starts fast, gets faster and never slows down.’

Drawing Down The Moon: The Art of Charles Vess is is an exhibition catalogue for a show that should’ve been for someone who’s illustrated such works as Seven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a favourite of mine. Let’s have Charles explain why I believe this: ‘All you need to do is flip through the book to realize that when it comes to traditional fairy, folk tale and fantasy art, there are few artists who do it better than Vess.’

Gary found Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light, to be quite a page-turner. ‘I think of myself as … not exactly a pacifist, but pacifist adjacent. It’s hard to square that with how much I enjoy good military SFF. My experience with it goes back to early Heinlein like Starship Troopers, through Niven-Pournelle and Joe Haldeman, and now you can add Linda Nagata to that list.’

With the new TV series adapted from William Gibson’s The Peripheral beginning Oct. 21 on Amazon Prime, we thought we’d re-run Gary’s review of the 2014 book. ‘Once again, a William Gibson book seems ripped from today’s headlines, extrapolated forward a bare few years. I like The Peripheral as much as I’ve liked any of Gibson’s books. Probably better. It takes place in a very real-seeming world, among real-seeming people.’

And while we’re at it, here’s his review of the sequel, Agency. ‘It’s the second book in yet another trilogy by Gibson, the septuaginarian North American who since the 1980s has made a career of writing plausible tomorrows by looking hard at today. This one picks up sometime after the action in The Peripheral. The gist of these tales, as it continues to emerge in Agency, is that the world’s political, social, and climate upheavals that we see happening around us today culminated in a catastrophe they now call the Jackpot (in one of these timelines), which led to the extinction of three-quarters of the world’s human population and at least that much of its other animal life.

Leona gives an incisive review of Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, an Ellis Peters novel: ‘Originally published in 1967, this is a book of music, of silence, of words; it has love, hate, and all their analogues. Myths and facts combine to wrap the storyline in a heavy cloak of authenticity. This is a story of high passion and cool deliberation; it dances through the morals and minds of another age and gives the reader a wide window into the world of folk music and ballad-singers.’

Ben Aaronovitch‘s The Furthest Station (Rivers of London #5.5) is a cool story says Lis: ‘ The London Underground has ghosts. Well, the London Underground always has ghosts, but usually they’re gentle, sad creatures. Lately there’s been an outbreak of more aggressive ghosts. Groping, shoving, insults that are racist and/or misogynistic–offensive and provocative. Victims of the assault report them, but have completely forgotten them by the time Transport Police get back to them to follow up.

Joseph Campbell’s Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth got reviewed by her: ‘This book is a collection of his lectures and writings on the Arthurian adventures and Grail Quests of the Middle Ages, specifically the “Matter of Britain” stories of the 12th and 13th centuries. These are the stories, or the basis of the stories, of Arthur’s court and its knights and ladies that we are most familiar with, and have nothing to do with the probable historical Arthur figure of the late 5th/early 6th centuries who may have led the Celtic Britons in resistance against the invading Saxons. If the historical Arthur existed, Arthur would have most likely been a nickname or title, not his name.’



Denise got a kick out of the contemporary horror film Jeepers Creepers. ‘Controversial filmmaker Victor Salva acts as writer and director for this film, and proves himself a capable storyteller. This film grabs your attention in the first few minutes and doesn’t let it go. It is a fast-paced 90 minutes with few unessential bits. As I watched the ending credits roll, I wished it had been a little longer; the bits of exposition as well as the glimpses of The Creeper’s lair hint at a larger mythology that I would like to have learned more about. As it stands, it’s a well-paced thrill ride that goes by so quickly you don’t have time to think about wanting more until you realize it’s over.’

PThe late and much missed Kage Baker, a woman who loved all things culinary such as the Two Fat Ladies series, once upon a time taught the bakers in our kitchen to make a most excellent soul cake according to what she says is a traditional Scots recipe. Let’s listen in as she tells them how she makes these nibbliesP
Richard was a little disappointed with Brian Azzarello & Victor Santos’s Filthy Rich modern noir comic Filthy Rich. ‘Considering the way in which the Vertigo imprint helped revolutionize American comics, one would hope that the lead title for Vertigo Crime would offer some of that same freshness. Instead, it’s just solid work. Victor Santos’ strong artwork helps — the tone of period film is evoked perfectly, with square-jawed men and seductively rounded women — but the ultimate effect is a strong take on a timeworn formula, rather than something new.’


Cat turned in a wide-ranging interview with Nick Burbridge of McDermott’s Two Hours.  ‘I first encountered his band when reading George Berger’s 1998 book Dance Before the Storm: The Official Story of the Levellers, which had this lovely bit about his band: “All the Levellers are keen to cite McDermott’s Two Hours as their original inspiration. A Brighton band, they were the natural fusion of the anger of Crass and the Irish-driven music of the Pogues.”

David wrote up an omnibus review and remembrance of Canadian folk and blues musician Jackie Washington. ‘He was born in 1919, and the family has lived in Hamilton forever. Jackie worked as a porter on the railroad; he worked at American Can for a time, bottling soda pop; and his whole life he has been a musician. A quick glance through the quasi-autobiography More Than a Blues Singer [compiled from interviews by poet James Strecker] shows a connection from Jackie to some of the greatest names in 20th century jazz and blues.’

Gary enthusiastically reviews Slash, a new album of Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton and American old time tunes by American guitarist Alex Sturbaum and a host of guest musicians on fiddle and a few other likely instruments. ‘I’m just gobsmacked at how much wonderful music there is on this album. Maybe my reaction is partly due to the fact that I haven’t been to a contradance since late 2019, and I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever get to go dancing again. But if you’re a contradancer or just enjoy energetic, rhythmic fiddle music out of these traditions, you owe it to yourself to check out Slash.’

Gary was pleased with the ‘Arabian fuzz’ emanating from Al-Qasar’s Who Are We? ‘What do you get when you combine a French-American electric guitar whiz-kid, a Moroccan singer and percussionist, a versatile rhythm section, and guest singers and players from the top ranks of World music and punk rock? Probably something like Al-Qasar, whose first full-length album Who Are We? raises the flag of Middle Eastern psychedelic rock with a decidedly political focus.’

Lory checked out a set of holiday music from an established musician and his daughter, Craig and Kara Markley’s Once Upon a Winter Moon. ‘There’s nothing wildly original here, but the arrangements are well-crafted and pleasant to listen to. The two original instrumentals, “Lady With the Silver Thread” (by Craig) and “Tinuviel” (by Kara) are cut from the same cloth, fitting in seamlessly with the more traditional melodies.’


Robert brings us a review of something that has nothing to do with witches: ‘Well, another cutie from Folkmanis came across my desk — or maybe I should say, “swam” across my desk: it’s their Baby Sea Otter hand puppet, and it’s a real cutie.’

PSo I’m going to finish off this Edition with  a live recording of the Dead doing ‘The Music Never Stopped’ which appropriately was recorded near Summer Solstice, the nineteenth of June, forty two years ago in Passaic, New Jersey. Blues for Allah, their eighth studio album, which had been released in September of 1975, included this song.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Chasing Fireflies

Raspberry dividerCome on in, you’re just in time! We haven’t started yet… don’t just stand there in the doorway, come in, come in! We have a contradance planned for tonight. I’m Kate, one of the assistant cooks here, but I’m also a dance caller. Grab yourself a seat for now, we’ll start soon. The band has to finish tuning, and… oh, there’s a fiddler missing! Would someone go roust Béla out of the pub?! I’ve danced without a fiddler before, but it just seems to lack something.

As I was saying, as soon as Béla graces us with his presence, and the band finishes tuning, we’ll walk through the first dance. You’ll need a partner, of course; go ask one of those fine people sitting over by the fire. Go on, just ask! Yes, you can do this, it’s very easy. It is so! It’s just walking to music is all, for want of a better term. Well, mostly, anyway. But don’t you worry, the other dancers will help you.

Still no sign of Béla, eh? Who went to fetch him?

It’s that new porter that’s been tapped in the pub, I’m sure. Béla’s developed quite a taste for it. You should give it a try yourself, but after the dance, please. You’re certain to have quite a thirst then. Ah, I see some of the wallflowers have left their chairs and are headed this way. Looks like you’ll dancing this first one after all! Very good, now if you and your partner would fall in down at the end of the set, because I think I see Béla coming in …

Now, everyone, take hands in groups of four, starting at the top of the set. Odd numbered couples are active, even are inactive. Actives, change places with your partner, please. Let’s dance ‘Lady of the Lake.’ Actives meet in the center of the set with a balance and swing. Now promenade down the middle. Turn alone and come back… cast around. Do a ladies chain over… and back. Now balance and swing with that person below… and you should have progressed and be ready to meet in the center again. You’ve got it! Now, everyone back to place and we’ll dance this one with the music. Béla, if you please…

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What’s New for the 18th of September: Our Elizabeth Bear edition, plus some de Lint on film and in comics, contemporary raga, lots of traditional fiddle music and a Bert Jansch tribute, and of course dragons and chocolate.

Was this what having an identity felt like? Was this being someone? Feeling like there was a core of who you were beyond which you could not be altered? Feeling . . . continuity. Feeling like you existed as a real, solid thing, apart from your trauma. ― Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night

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Autumn here with its promise of bonfires, pumpkins, cider on tap in the Pub, of blackberries fat and tart on their prickly bushes  and pumpkins ripening on the vine, but it’s also the time of year that we get serious about getting ready for Winter. If you visit us on this Scottish Estate, someone will no doubt ask you to pitch in on some task that needs doing. So dress appropriately, have a good attitude, sturdy footware and you’ll be appreciated here quite nicely.

Now why don’t you give me a few minutes to finish up this Edition and we’ll head off to the Kitchen as the season’s upon  us when the staff’s making babka, that exquisitely chocolate rich Eastern European sweet, leavened bread along with just as tasty rugelach, both a good treat as the weather cools…

Raspberry dividerWe’re looking at just Elizabeth Bear this outing. Now we can’t possibly include the reviews here that we’ve done, so I’m picking just some for here.

First up is her not quite space operas, Ancestral Night and its not quite sequel Machine. Gary reviewed both. He says ‘Ancestral Night is the tale of Haimey Dz, a nominally lesbian engineer on a little salvage tug whose ship mind is named Singer and which is piloted by her friend Connla Kurucz. Both Haimey and Connla live nearly full time in zero gravity, so of course their bodies have been modified in many ways, including replacing their feet with “aft hands.” The three of them make their living in the vastness of interstellar space by going to the rips in spacetime caused by unsuccessful transfers out of white space back into Newtonian space, and salvaging the wrecks they find there … if there’s anything left or worth salvaging. ’

In the second novel, he says, she ‘is playing a long game in Machine, the second installment in her White Space series. The series is shaping up to be an exploration of those dark places – not to say dystopian spaces – that are always found around the edges of any apparent utopia. Via that path she’s casting her eye on some of the current ills facing humanity in the 21st century — and tossing out some thoughts about how we might resolve some of those issues before it’s too late.’

Cat has a look at two novellas in an interesting series: ‘As I write this review just before Election Day, there have been but two novellas released in the fascinating Sub-Inspector Ferron series “In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns” and “A Blessing of Unicorns”. I’m not sure how I came upon the first novella but it was a superb story, both in terms of the setting and in the characters that Bear has created here, including a parrot-cat called Chairman Miaow.’

Kestrell looks at a novel of decided Shakespearean tones: ‘Elizabeth Hand’s new novel Illyria follows in a long tradition of science fiction and fantasy stories which reference the works of Shakespeare, particularly the romances, and Hand’s lyrical writing style is a wonderful fit for the dark romance she sets out to tell. The romance tells of the relationship between two cousins, Maddy and Rogan, but like that of the twins Viola and Sebastian in “Twelfth Night” to which the title Illyria alludes, the relationship between Maddy and Rogan proves to be a powerful touchstone for drawing together all the “big ideas” of love, ambition, and conformity to family and social expectations.’

Richard has zeppelins for us in New Amsterdam: ‘ There is no more surefire signifier of the alternate history novel than the zeppelin. One giant commercial dirigible hanging in the background is all you need to say “This world is not our world. This is a place where things are/were different.” And, often enough, a signifier is all the zeppelin remains. They’re cool, they’re different, and they’re background.’

Without telling us a damn thing about the novel, Robert has high praise for high praise for one of her works: ‘Elizabeth Bear has started to scare me. All the Windwracked Stars packs a terrific wallop, and any artist who can achieve that level with any consistency is frightening indeed. There’s a degree of honesty that any artist has to achieve if they want us to pay attention beyond the moment: they can’t be afraid of the hard places. Bear’s there.’

Next is her Promethean Age novels.  he begins his review wwith Blood and Iron this way: ‘Blood and Iron is the story of what turns out to be the latest battle in an ongoing and centuries-long war between the Courts of Faerie, whose power is of song and bindings and innate gifts, and the Magi of the Prometheus Club, whose magic is a thing of arcane knowledge and iron weapons, against which the Fae have little recourse. Both sides, of course, are fighting in self-defense, ‘

Of the second, Whiskey and Water, he notes: ‘The nice thing about reading the first volume to a really good new fantasy series is that when you reach the end, you know the story’s not over. The nice thing about getting your hands on the second volume is that now the waiting is over.’

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Yes, it is currently available in the States on HBO Max as part of The Hunger series and Michael says it’s worth watching: ‘Adapted from the Charles de Lint short story of the same name, Sacred Fire was produced as an episode of the anthology television series, The Hunger, and first shown in 1999. A horror/dark fantasy series initially hosted by Terence Stamp and then David Bowie, The Hunger takes dark, twisted looks at the world around us.’ In an email, the author notes that one of his favourite things about it is ‘David Bowie dressed up as a mad scientist as he introduces it!’

The story is found in the Dreams Underfoot collection, which is available from what I call the usual suspects.

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Jennifer reviews Nordi by Fazer Finnish chocolate bars, and then, in keeping with her theme of more-fat-more-carbs-for-is-good, feeds us Chorizo Empanadas, and shares a recipe modification that didn’t win. Don’t worry. You get the version of Chewy Grains and Sausage Casserole that works, as well as the blow-by-blow on what went wrong with the innovation.

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Speaking of de Lint, Mia has a charming children’s book for us: ‘A Circle of Cats is intended to be the prequel to the de Lint/Vess collaboration Seven Wild Sisters. Since I’ve been thwarted in every attempt to procure a copy of Sisters, and haven’t had a chance to read the story sans Vess artwork in Tapping the Dream Tree collection, I have no idea how A Circle of Cats stands in relation to that rare release. In relation to de Lint’s body of work as a whole, and indeed to the field of modern fantasy and fairy tale overall, this piece is simply outstanding.’

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Debbie had some thoughts about Peter Knight’s The Gemini Cadenza, a very different sort of recording by the Steeleye Span fiddler. ‘Knight’s high level of technical expertise, coupled with his willingness to step outside the boundaries of any particular genre, make him an artist of the highest caliber, in my opinion. You may not like all he has to offer, depending on your own tastes, but he is very much worth listening to, in whichever of his incarnations you choose to experience him.’

Gary was mesmerized by a contemporary raga recording, Purbayan Chatterjee and Rakesh Chaurasia’s Saath Saath. ‘It was recorded in March 2022, in a small chamber orchestra environment in one or sometimes two takes. We hear the introduction and a little chatter at the beginning of most tracks, and sometimes a bit of follow-up jamming as the musicians wind down from their intense focus. It’s all very charming. If you want a very beginner-friendly introduction to “Indian” music, or if you’re an old hand looking for a refreshingly informal take on it, Saath Saath is highly recommended.’

Gary also reviewed a various artists collection of field recordings, Traditional Fiddle Music of the Ozarks, Volume One: Along the Eastern Crescent. ‘This CD is the first of a three-volume set in Rounder’s excellent North American Traditions series, focusing on the old-time fiddle music of the Ozarks. It was clearly a labor of love for producers Gordon McCaan and Mark Wilson, as well as the 10 fiddlers, most of them well beyond 70 years of age. As Wilson says in his extensive liner notes, it’s important that these regional fiddle works be recorded, because the process of homogenization is well along. The advent of records, radio and TV, as well as the greater ease of traveling in the second half of the 20th century, all have conspired to nearly kill old-time dance music played by small string bands.’

John Benninghouse reviewed a collection of field recordings, Work & Pray: Historic Negro Spirituals and Work Songs From West Virginia. ‘This album is the fruit of the labors of Cortez Reece, who recorded these performances from 1949-53 as part of his doctoral thesis, “A Study of Selected Folk Songs Collected Mainly in Southern West Virginia.” It collects most of the religious pieces and songs sung by black workers as they laid railroad track. Aside from any academic trappings, the 38 tracks here stand on their own as wonderfully evocative performances.’

‘If you only buy one more CD this year (unlikely, I know!) and you love the sound of the fiddle, then this should be the one you choose,’ said Richard Barnes of a various artists disc called The Fiddle Collection (Volume 1). ‘It’s been a labour of love for Phil Beer (who better to coordinate such a project, fiddler extraordinaire that he is himself?), and well worth the effort.’

Richard Condon had high praise indeed for People On The Highway: A Bert Jansch Encomium. ‘If you are an admirer of Bert Jansch and his music or if you are a fan of the scene onto which he erupted, the London of the 1960s, you will find much to please you on these two discs. They demonstrate the love and admiration that BJ inspired in his own generation and also the influence and affection that can still be discovered in later and more widely scattered musicians. Many of the songs continue to hold their own, even if a few now seem lighter in weight in a changed world, and they are generally performed here with understanding and respect.’

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Our What Nots are of a Dragonish manner, and let’s have Camille start off for us: ‘Like every Folkmanis puppet I’ve so far seen, the Baby Dragon Puppet is a marvel of workmanship for the price: carefully stitched seams, articulated wings, darts along the inside of the limbs and belly to allow for movement and keep shape. The tag tells us it’s made in China, so we know who to thank.’

Mia finishes off with a look at four of Folkmanis’s creations, to wit Blue Dragon, Green Dragon, Three Headed Dragon, and Phoenix and she says, ‘Oooooh, shiny! I have a box of dragons here! Folkmanis makes the best puppets ever, and their dragons are some of the finest of their puppets.’

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Autumn for me is when I start craving the sound of certain performers, one of which is Kathryn Tickell. She to me is one of the more interesting sounding of the Northumberland performers that risen up in the past thirty years in the years since Billy Pigg was active.

So let’s listen in to her performing three tunes, ‘The Magpie’, ‘Rothbury Road‘ and ‘The Cold Shoulder’ which is from an outstanding soundboard recording of a performance at the Washington D.C. Irish Folk Fest from the 2nd of September, some twenty years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Kedgeree, or Khichari You If Prefer

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I had an exemplary kedgeree for my breakfast this morning along with a lovely lapsang souchong tea. Now if you’re reading this in the States, you might be puzzled as to what I ate. And when you hear what it is, you might well say that kedgeree doesn’t sound like a breakfast dish ‘tall!

Kedgeree, as prepared by Mrs. Ware and her kitchen staff here at the Kinrowan Estate here in Scotland, is a dish comprised of curried rice, smoked salmon and chopped eggs with a splash of cream as well.  On a cold, blustery morning such as we’re having here in the middle of November, since I promised Gus that I’d be part of the crew cleaning up the nearby grounds, it is bloody fine comfort food.

It’s considered a traditional British breakfast dish but its roots are in East Indian, cooking having started its life as khichari, a simple dish of rice and lentils. Due to the British Raj and the colonization of the sub-continent, the dish was adapted and turned into something more suited to those Brits serving in India, and it returned to Britain with them during the Victorian era.

Notice that I said we make it here using smoked salmon, specifically applewood smoked salmon. The salmon comes from the river that runs through our Estate and it works just fine. I Should note that our Kitchen doesn’t use sultanas, though some cooks do. Ours is also quite a bit more spicy than the somewhat milder version most Brits prefer.

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What’s New for the 4th of September: A Rivers of London novella, a Piece of Pulp gets the Film Treatment,Ice Cream, Jethro Tull’s ‘The Hunting Girl’

Crop handle carved in bone; sat high upon a throne of finest English leather.
The queen of all the pack, this joker raised his hat and talked about the weather.
All should be warned about this high born Hunting Girl.
She took this simple man’s downfall in hand; I raised the flag that she unfurled.

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The end of Summer is nigh upon us as the Autumnal Equinox is but a few weeks out and we here on this Scottish Estate have begun the only partly conscious shift into Autumn as a given thing. Everything — from the behaviour of the lynxes as they hunt their prey to the food served up by Mrs. Ware who’s our Head Cook and her staff — starts the shift to serving the heartier foods that the increasingly cold, too frequently wet weather causes us to crave.

By this time of year,  even the Neverending Session starts folding in on itself as the ancient boon of food, drink and a place to sleep is outweighed by our remoteness. So that group is largely comprised of the mmusicians here, a number somewhere around a third of the Estate staff such as myself (violin),  my wife Catherine (voice and wire strung Welsh violin), Béla (violin), Finch (smallpipes) and Reynard (concertina). It’s always interesting to see who’s playing in it at any given moment. Nor is it by any means always present, a myth started by the musicians a long time ago.

Raspberry dividerRegarding Alan Moore & José Villarrubia’s poetry volume The Mirror of Love, April said ‘Alan Moore, known primarily as a cutting edge comic author (From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Watchmen), is no slouch when it comes to other artistic endeavors. He’s written a novel, songs, and even poetry. The Mirror of Love is one such foray into the realm of poetry. Originally published in 1988 in comic form (as part of an AARGH!, or Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia, comic anthology) as a protest against England’s anti-homosexual Clause 28, Mirror encapsulates the history of same sex love, from pre-history to Sappho to today.’

Camille said the writing, the characters, and the plot in Perry Moore’s Hero didn’t win her over, but she liked it in the end. ‘What did win me over was the absolutely brilliant use of Thom’s struggle to understand himself and his place in the world as a superhero paralleled with his struggle to understand himself as gay. All this, of course, set against the familiar coming-of-age backdrop of the struggle to understand himself as adult. Weaving the three elements together, Moore manages to highlight the poignancies of each, and to forge a single, universal tale of teenage angst, self-loathing, redemption, and resolution.’

David received a review copy of a 33-1/3 book, an extended essay about Jethro Tull’s Aqualung by music professor Allan Moore, and … he’s not having any of it. ‘The book is short, only 110 pages, but it seems to go on forever. As I read, my wife said, “Stop grunting!” as I responded verbally with huffs and puffs on nearly every page.’ Read his review to see what bothered him so.

David also looked at a couple of other titles in the 33-1/3 lineup, Kevin Courrier’s Trout Mask Replica, and Sean Nelson’s Court and Spark. ‘It’s interesting, in both books, that the albums are treated as vinyl. Not CDs. Nelson divides Joni’s work by song, “putting the needle down on side one …” and Courrier discusses the value of the four different sides of a double album, not one continuous piece of music. That’s what makes these 33 1/3 books valuable. They maintain a connection to the past, not just in their reassessment of old records, but in their respect for the medium.’

In his review of Christopher Moore’s Lamb, Gary says ‘Moore is a popular American novelist who specializes in humorous horror, for want of a better term. … Generally, in his five previous books, Moore has taken monsters, gods, creatures and demons from old stories, legends and myths and set them in the modern world, where they do their best to confound the lives of some confused Americans. … In Lamb, however, he has done the opposite: put characters with 21st-century sensibilities inside an old story, the tale of Jesus. Or rather, Joshua, which was his Hebrew name.’

‘Short-form science fiction is pretty much my idea of perfect summer reading,’ Gary says as he dips in to Gardener Dozois’ The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-fifth Annual Collection. ‘I want something to dip into that will hold my interest at least briefly on a languid afternoon, so a big ol’ volume of great SF is just the thing. And what better sort of collection than one of the 35 “year’s best” compilations edited by the late Gardener Dozois between 1984 and his death in 2018?’

Gary was less than thrilled about Hayden Childs’ Shoot Out The Lights, a book in the popular 33-1/3 series about the classic album by Richard and Linda Thompson. ‘Childs is a good writer. And he knows how to write about music. And he certainly seems to have a good deal of passion and some genuine insights about this album. I just don’t like the way he chose to write about it.’

Kate lost a good night’s sleep in order to finish reading Christopher Moore’s Island of the Sequined Love Nun. ‘Ironically, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about picking it up to begin with. I have read several of Moore’s novels, and I think by now I can claim to be a pretty dedicated fan. I hadn’t read this one for a few years though, and remembered it as being one of the weakest of the bunch. Had I a better memory, I would have planned to read it on a far more accommodating schedule!’

Next Kate made a startling confession in her review of Christopher Moore’s Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings: ‘I don’t like whales. Its true. They’re like huge containers of lard, with unattractively gaping maws, lolling in the ocean and taking up an unsettling amount of space. And they’re crusty, which is just icky. Having made this incredibly un-PC statement, I have to qualify it with this: I do like the whales in Fluke. And I really like the researchers who study them. And this is Christopher Moore, after all, who can make me like just about anything, or at least keep me entertained with any of the myriad subjects he chooses to write about.’

Ben Aaronovitch’s What Abigail Did That Summer (Rivers of London #5.83) is says Lis ‘The Rivers of London series features the adventures of Police Constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant. But Peter has a younger cousin, Abigail Kamara, who also has ambitions to be a wizard. This novella is what happens when Abigail is largely unsupervised over the summer, and discovers that teenagers are disappearing around the Heath, and then reappearing before the police get concerned enough to mount real investigations. Of course she decides to investigate herself.’

The stories in C. L. Moore’s Judgment Night are not your usual pulp science fiction, Robert says. ‘These are solid stories, not at all the hack work we tend to think of when someone mentions the pulps, and serve to fix Moore’s place as a major voice in science fiction of the Golden Age. This edition is a facsimile of the original Gnome Press edition of 1952, and it’s a trip down memory lane, from the cover by Frank Kelly Frease to the stories themselves.’

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Cat enthusiastically endorses the 1994 film version of an old story, The Shadow, this one starring a young Alec Baldwin. ‘At it’s very core, The Shadow harkens back to a much simpler age when one could reasonably expect that Good was different than Evil. The movie captures that feeling rather well. John Lone is an absolute delight as Shiwan Khan … a somewhat too obvious and somewhat darker reflection of The Shadow’s supposed goodness. The art deco sets are terrific; the music is moody and fits the film. The visual scope of 1933 New York City is breathtaking.’

Raspberry dividerJennifer gives us a recipe for corn bread that’s better than ya muthah’s. Note the stress on extra butter. Nothing can be done for you if you will eat corn bread but won’t add extra butter. No low-carb diet on earth allows you corn bread, so, since you’ve decided to have some anyway, go on, be a devil and add that extra butter!?”’

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‘…(F)ans everywhere are sulking,’ Kage said in her mixed review of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier from Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. ‘Most of the book consists of excerpts from the Dossier, in a wide variety of styles and voices. Some work brilliantly. “What Ho! The Elder Gods,” in which Bertie Wooster mixes with the Lovecraft set, had me laughing until I wept. Other bits misfire.’

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David offered up a review of an album by an Irish blues singer and guitarist. ‘There’s no mistaking what’s going on with Bad For You Baby. Right from the first note, guitarist Gary Moore opens his new CD with a raw, loud riff, and then blues singer Gary Moore jumps in, “You got a wiggle when you walk, you got a giggle when you talk, I see you comin’ it makes me smile, you beat the other women by a million miles … I got it bad for you baby and I just can’t help myself.” And there’s no turning back. Full tilt rock’n’roll boogie time.

David didn’t find much joy in a 2006 reissue of Christy Moore’s Live In Dublin recording, mostly because of the dour political nature of the songs. ‘Recorded in April 1978 at a series of gigs held “at The Meeting Place, Pat Dowling’s of Prosperous, Trinity College and the Grapevine Arts Centre in North Great George’s St.” and even in “Nicholas Ryan’s front room,” the sound is intimate and clear. Acoustic guitars and a bouzouki provide a firm foundation for Christy’s reedy tenor. His Irish brogue adds a touch of reality to the atmosphere invoked by these songs of rebellion and strife.’

Gary approves of Popular Culture … at least this album by Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra by that title. ‘As with much of what Bernstein does, the spirits of New Orleans and Elllington permeate Popular Culture. Lots of urbane cool slinkiness and joyous funky grooves behind rich interplay from the horn section. “Black Peter” is a swampy take on this Dead cut from Workingman’s Dead, with guitarist Matt Munisteri taking the instrumental and vocal lead.

Gary found a lot to like in Kallio, a solo project by Finnish fiddler Päivi Hirvonen. ‘Hirvonen composed and arranged all nine songs presented here, and she also performs all of the music herself, with the exception of some backing vocals on the opening track. In addition to the violin, she also plays the Finnish bowed lyre called jouhikko, and there are also some dramatic electronics and studio effects added by the Finnish artist and producer Oona Kapari, to the extent that Kallio does not come off like a solo project.’

Gary also greatly enjoyed Erlend Apneseth’s solo Hardanger fiddle album Nova. ‘As with so many of the unique artists on the Hubro label (and elsewhere on the Nordic scene) Apneseth is rooted in traditional music, but unites it with a improvisation borrowed from jazz and a curiosity for sonic exploration from the avant garde. The result, especially when united with the sonic possibilities of the recording space and the fiddler’s use of himself as another instrument, is wondrous.

John Benninghouse reviewed Christy Moore’s first two post-Planxty solo albums, Whatever Tickles Your Fancy and Christy Moore. They had a mixed reception from critics and fans, he noted. ‘These albums on re-release by Raven have been packaged together, and they give a snapshot of Moore getting back to his feet and establishing himself once again as a solo artist.’

Lars was a wee bit more positive than David about Christy Moore’s Live in Dublin 2006, a double CD and DVD that was new, not a re-release of an old live disc. ‘If you ever lose your faith in music, in the ability of songs to give you something more than simple statements of love, these products will restore it very quickly. This is what music is about: good friends playing songs they love. Hypnotic, magnetic – I get lost for words. One of the best live CDs I have ever heard, and one of the best concert DVDs around.

Christy Moore’s This is the Day also received Lars’s unqualified endorsement. ‘If you are looking for rock and roll or speedy jigs and reels you’re better off avoiding this. But if you want something genuinely moving, a collection of lovely songs executed by three real experts, you must not do without it. In my book it’s one of Moore’s best ever, up there with Ride On and the other classics.’

Lars was highly entertained by two eclectic and eccentric albums, The Charlie Moorland Trio’s Excentrique, and Jaune Toujours’s Barricade. Of the first, he says, ‘The Charlie Moorland Trio describes its own recording thus: “A collection of swing/French/Gypsy/trad and original material, including some French musette transcribed from disc, jazz from the real book, a Romanian Gypsy tune ‘Doda’ from a trad score and Macedonian tunes from Linsey Pollak’s collection.” ‘ And of the second: ‘If you want to get under the skin of Brussels, capital of the surreal, as Maris’s lyrics call it, this CD would be a good place to start.’

Richard says the music on Smoke & Strong Whiskey is not by the Christy Moore we’re all familiar with from Planxty and Moving Hearts. ‘This is the other Christy Moore, present to varying degrees in the earlier groups already mentioned and more so on his numerous solo albums. It is Christy the roaring boy, Christy the politically committed activist, Christy the cynical and world-weary social commentator, Christy the star able to laugh at himself, Christy the contemporary musician, using fashionable sounds and styles.’

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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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I personally have a keen liking for the Jethro Tull of the Sixties and early Seventies, which is why you’re getting a cut off their 1976 album, Songs from The Wood. The cut I’ve selected is ‘The Hunting Girl’, a fine pagan story about boy meets girl riding horse and … Oh just go give it a listen! It’s a soundboard recording done forty three years ago at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 4th of September: A Rivers of London novella, a Piece of Pulp gets the Film Treatment,Ice Cream, Jethro Tull’s ‘The Hunting Girl’