Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Oh Christmas Tree!

Well, it seems it really is that time of year again, we are in the season of Advent, and tomorrow night (Wednesday 30th November) Stromness folk will gather at the Pier Head for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.

The Salvation Army Band will get everyone in the mood playing a selection of Christmas favourites at 5.45pm then at 6pm Councillor James Stockan will open proceedings, followed by a Christmas message from the new minister of Stromness Parish Church, Rev Billy Burnside, who will switch on the festive lights. There will be Christmas Carols sung by Stromness Primary School pupils, and a community carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, led by the Stromness Church Choir and The Salvation Army Band.

To keep out the cold there will be mince pies, mulled wine and fruit punch and the bairns can look forward to light sticks and festive sweets, and perhaps a visit from a special guest?!

We'll be working, so unforunately won't make it along, but if the bonny tree and lights inspire you to get going with your own festive decorations, then pop into the library on your way home - we have lots of books to help you plan your decorating theme, from the traditional to the trendy.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

It's oh so quiet....

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, we've had problems with our internet connection over the last couple of days due to the weather.

We seem to be back online at the moment so will quickly take the opportunity to remind you all that the Reading Group will meet on Wednesday 30th of November at 7pm to discuss Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. As usual new, and old, members are very welcome to come along for an informal chat about the book, over a cup of tea or coffee. See you there- as long as we aren't blown away, struck by lightning, or snowed up in the meantime!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

All stirred up.

If, like us, you are in denial about the rapidly approaching festive period - despite the arrival of  tinsel and Santas in the shops in October, we have refused to set up our display of Christmas books - then you will be as shocked as we were to discover that it really is time to start preparing, for tomorrow is Stir-up Sunday

The last Sunday before the start of Advent is traditionally the day to make your Christmas pudding and the name comes from the Collect used in the Anglican church on that day:

                 Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord,
                 the wills of thy faithful people;
                that they, plenteously bringing forth
                the fruit of good works,
               may of thee be plenteously rewarded.

We can therefore put it off no longer, and have brought out the Christmas recipe books for those of you still looking for the perfect pudding recipe or thinking of trying something a bit different this year. We have lots to choose from, including traditional recipes from Mrs Beeton  and Delia Smith as well as some with a local flavour from Alan Bichan and Liz Ashworth

We also have lots of books full of ideas and tips to help you get ahead with your festive planning and preparations, so pop in and borrow one today - but we promise the library will remain a tinsel and Santa free zone until at least the start of December!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Author of the Month for November - Ian Rankin

We continue the darker mood, set by last month's author Sheila Quigley , with some tartan noir from Ian Rankin.

Creator of the famous Inspector Rebus character, Ian Rankin began writing novels while he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987, and the seventeen books in the Rebus series are now translated into twenty-two languages and are bestsellers on several continents.

Many fans were dismayed when Rankin allowed Rebus to retire, but Rankin's most recent, post-Rebus titles, The Complaints and The Impossible Dead  have introduced a successor, in the form of Inspector Malcolm Fox. Fox works in the Complaints and Conduct Department, known colloquially as 'The Dark Side', or simply 'The Complaints'. They're the cops who investigate other cops, and when Fox's investigations uncover conspiracy, cover-up, and brutal murder, it isn't always clear who is on the right side of the law.

Earlier this year Ian Rankin was linked to a real-life mystery, as several venues around Edinburgh found they had been targeted by an anonymous paper sculptor, who left breathtakingly intricate models,cut from the pages of a book, placed in public spaces.

Edinburgh's Filmhouse Cinema received a model of a cinema with a tiny paper Rankin sitting in the audience drinking a bottle of Deuchars and warriors on horseback leaping from the screen.

National Library of Scotland received a model of a coffin and a gramophone sculpted from a copy of Rankin's novel Exit Music. 

The Scottish Poetry Library found an intricate paper tree on a table, alongside a note saying "this is for your support of libraries, books, words and ideas"  and although the Poetry Library sculpture has no obvious link to the author, Exit Music includes a scene at the venue. 

Despite rumours that Ian Rankin himself was behind the mysterious sculptures, the author denied any involvement, but did say that "it has to be someone who knows my work".

The sculptures have appeared in many more venues around the city, including the one pictured below with Ian Rankin, which was left for UNESCO Edinburgh City of Literature during the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Reading Group - Stephen King

Just a quick reminder that the Reading Group will meet tomorrow evening, Wednesday the 9th of November, at 7pm. We will be discussing The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King and any new folk who would like to come along will be made very welcome.

The group meetings are informal and friendly and we'll even make you a cup of tea or coffee!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Remember, remember ...

Let's hope this morning's fine weather holds for tonight, when many folk across the country will be lighting bonfires, watching firework displays and enjoying such bonfire night favourites as baked tatties, treacle toffee and toasted marshmallows.

While in the days leading up to 5th November children in other parts of the country go looking for a 'penny for the Guy'  a related tradition, unique to Stromness, sees the town's children out at folks' doors asking for ' a penny for me pop'. An interesting exploration of this tradition can be found in Michael A. Lange's article Peeling the Pop  but for a first hand account we turned to Stromness lad George Mackay Brown, in Letters from Hamnavoe :

                  ' "'A penny to burn me pop" - Bless our hearts, we didn't for one moment know what the slogan meant. All we knew was that we had to pinch a turnip out of a farmer's field and take it home, about the 3rd of November. Then our fathers or our elder brother would sculpt the turnips with the kitchen carving knife. Buttons for eyes, broken matches for teeth, splashes of vermilion on cheeks and nose and a stick to carry it round with.'

By 1978, in Under Brinkie's Brae, GMB ' is glad to say that  nowadays children have, mostly, stopped saying the old ritual fiery words at the door. Instead they say, in their dewy voices, " A penny for me pop". ' For those of you still wondering at the significance of the 'fiery words' all will be made clear when we tell you that, said with an Orcadian accent ,'pop' becomes 'pope'. GMB wonders 'in what bigoted religious brain, sometime in the mid-nineteenth century, the phrase first took root', but it is clear that by the twentieth century the anti-catholic sentiment behind the tradition had been largely forgotten.

We wonder if any Stromness children will call by the library with their pops today? It has certainly happened in previous years, although the tradition is dwindling, as families  move away and those new to the town do not know of the old ways. We have a stash of small change ready, just in case, though we're not sure what the going rate is these days? When GMB was a boy in the 1920s he 'got a ha'penny ( an old half-penny)' and when he was being disturbed from his writing in 1978 by 'the sweet little turnip-bearing tyrants' two pence seemed 'an appropriate equivalent'.

In case you were wondering just what a pop looks like below is a picture of some Stromness bairns and their pops from 1991. As you can see the pop can come in any shape or form imaginable and I suspect the parents, or older siblings, who carve them have as much fun as the children!

Photograph copyright Keith Allardyce, taken from the wonderful book on Stromness 'Sea Haven' by Bryce Wilson and with a foreword by George Mackay Brown.