Book Review – Shadow of the Dome by Karen Warren

January 22, 2023

This is a novel set in a historical period I know little about.  I have heard of the Mongol Emperor, Kublai Khan,and the explorer Marco Polo but my knowledge is very sketchy.  I also know of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem about Kublai Khan and his stately pleasure-dome.  Karen Warren obviously knows her subject and has done her research well.

This tale of a Mongol princess and her servants is a compelling read.  The narrative kept me going right to the end and there are twists along the way.  The author is an exceptional storyteller and I recommend this book to anyone who appreciates not only historical fiction but also likes reading a good adventure story.

 

Keith Jahans

 

Published by Lume Books
available as an ebook and a paperback


Travels in Scotland – 31 December 2022

January 1, 2023

Visited Edinburgh this New Year’s eve and parked at the Castle Terrace car park.  We felt we had done enough castle tours this trip and did not want to climb the hill to the castle.  Instead we admired the view we had of this magnificent building and elected to stroll into the city and do some shopping.  On the way we took in the stunning architecture that the city has to offer.  We did our shopping but got hopelessly lost on our way back to the car.

The Scots have a wonderful tradition of celebrating New Year’s Eve or Hogmanay as it is called here.  I was hoping that I would find a promising venue that we could see in the New Year that evening but the hotel restaurant only offered a rudimentary menu and the pub/restaurant opposite offered just English/American cuisine.  Haggis was not on the menu.  Instead we elected for the Hotel’s offering and saw in the New Year in our room.  On New Year’s Day we will set out for England and will return to our flat in London on 2nd January.

 

Edinburgh Castle

 

Keith Jahans


Travels in Scotland – 30 December 2022

December 31, 2022

Rose early as usual but this time had the hotel’s inclusive breakfast which included slices of Haggis.  Then set out for Sterling.  On the way we stopped at the picturesque Donnotar castle.  I had been here before during my “Castle Trail” visit of 2015
( check out https://peatmore.wordpress.com/2015/07 for details).
It was certainly worth another look.  An hour later we departed for Sterling Castle where we took time out to tour its magnificent interior.  Finally, as darkness fell, we arrived at our Sterling hotel where we planned to spend the next two nights.

 

Dunnottar Castle

 

 

Sterling Castle

Keith Jahans


Travels in Scotland – 29 December 2022

December 30, 2022

Set off from Inverness towards Aberdeen.  There were two routes we considered taking.  One was the tourist route across the Cairngorms, the other along the A96.  I decided that the Cairngorm route too hazardous because of the snow and ice we might meet at that time of year so we followed the A96.

On the way we passed Elgin Cathedral which was established in 1224 and is now a magnificent ruin.  We also visited a few castles which I had seen before while following the signed “Castle Trail” when I travelled to Scotland on my own in 2015.  An account of this visit can be found at https://peatmore.wordpress.com/2015/07.  By Brodie Castle I came across a girl leading a handsome pony called Donald which she kindly allowed me to photograph.

 

Elgin Cathedral

 

Donald

Keith Jahans


Travels in Scotland – 28 December 2022

December 29, 2022

Woke early next morning and admired the view from the hotel bedroom.  Then at about 10.30 set off towards Loch Ness.  Again it proved to be a scenic drive as snow capped mountains once more lined our route.  There was no rain or snow but the skies were dark and brooding.

We reached Lock Ness in good time and the drive alongside the Loch was wonderful.  Our first stop was the ruined Urquhart Castle.  This features in many famous pictures of Loch Ness.  I found the ruins to be more complex than I expected.  It is now a well kept tourist attraction as the castle ruins and grounds are well maintained.  It was an ideal site for any budding photographer.

We drove on to The Loch Ness exhibition centre.  This had changed drastically since I first visited it in 1974.  Then it was little more than a portacabin that displayed photographs, artefacts and newspaper cuttings about the famous monster.  Now it proved to be a very much interactive experience showing short films depicting how research into the monster phenomenon has been done over the years.  I very much preferred my memories of the portacabin approach all those years ago.  The weather was colder here and access to the car park proved too icy to navigate, but I was able to find a parking space in front of the exhibition building.

Nearby was Nessieland, an attraction aimed at children.  I took my children here many years ago.  It is now even more of a tourist attraction but appeared closed for the winter.  My children had been enchanted by its huge plastic depictions of Nessie .  I find it incredible that the Scots have provided a famous attraction of a phenomenon that no one has ever seen.  A Scottish colleague, from my days as a working microbiologist, once told me that it only appears once you look away.

 

View from Fort William hotel window

 

Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

 

Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition

Keith Jahans


Travels in Scotland – 27 December 2022

December 28, 2022

Left Helensbrugh and set off along the A82 towards Fort William.  We started off in poring rain and the road took us alongside Loch Lomand.  The rain turned to sleet, then snow.  Our pathway became a winter wonderland with whiteness glistening from the trees, contrasting with the brownness left by the wheels from traffic in the snow on the road surface.  I had visions of being stuck in a blizzard and having to abandon the car in a snow drift.  But nothing untoward happened.

We were travelling through the Scottish Highlands, heading towards Glenco.  Mountains towered all round as we passed through deep valleys.  Most were covered in mist and fog, giving the atmosphere a mystical setting.  My companion took photos from the car window.  The snow turned to rain again as we reached The Glenco Visitor Centre where we stopped to admire the scenery more leisurely.  Finally we arrived at Fort William where the rain turned to fine drizzle.

 

Snowy mountains photographed
from car as we passed by

 

Snow capped mountains towering
over Glenco Visitor Centre

 

 

Christmassy square in Fort William

 

 

An awesome sight for whiskey lovers
One bottle was priced at £2000

Keith Jahans


Travels in Scotland – 26 December 2022

December 27, 2022

Set out on Boxing Day to explore area.  Our hotel was in Helensburgh which is not far from Lochlomand.  The good news was our room offered a wonderful sea view.  The bad news was that it was up three flights of stairs.  Visited Loch Lomond in heavy rain but this was what I expected in Scotland especially in winter.  The scenery was spectacular.

Helensbrugh Hotel

 

View From Helensbrugh Hotel

 

View of Loch Lomond from Luss Village

 

Balloch Castle at southern end of Loch Lomand

 

Keith Jahans

 


Travels in Scotland – 25 December 2022

December 27, 2022

Reached Scotland on the afternoon of Christmas Day but it proved too late to explore the area by our hotel.


Travels in Northern England – 24 December 2022

December 26, 2022

Arrived in York on Christmas Eve.  The streets were bustling with life and complicated to navigate.  I kept getting lost but the people are really nice and helpful to an elderly man.  A bouncer at a nightclub kindly directed me back to my hotel.  I got up early and left hotel on foot at 9 am.  It was a good time to take photographs as the streets were deserted.  The bells of York Minster rang out through the city.

 

York Walled City.
Drove through this arch to reach hotel.

 

Christmas Tree in deserted York street

 

The Magnificent York Minster

 

Today we head to Scotland.

 

Keith Jahans


Book Review – The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose by Andrew Batty.

December 15, 2022

An antidote to Tom Brown’s Schooldays.

I was educated in both the private sector and state secondary schools during the 1960s.  In that time a child’s fate was governed according to whether they passed the then Eleven Plus examination which marked the transition between primary and secondary education.  This is an examination I failed so I can relate to the narrator’s experiences.  I also understand the author’s teenage angst when trying somewhat clumsily to understand girls.

The narrative is littered with fascinating characters.  The teachers were delightfully eccentric.  I too had an accident prone physics teacher but I was not fortunate enough to have so many subjects taught by people with such obvious teaching talent.  The contrast between the two private school exchange students and the secondary school pupils was well drawn as was the self-recognition of what was expected of them when grown to adulthood.  In those days corporal punishment was part and parcel of education but as the decade advanced it was rarely used.  Inventing stories to get oneself out of trouble was par for the course and as the stories were related over time the more outlandish they became, which was what indeed happened with the narrator of this book.  I loved the way that his fellows came to his aid and joined in with his attempt to mislead those in authority.

I found reading Andrew Batty’s story a captivating experience and can recommend it to anyone who enjoys a humorous read, especially those who were educated in the England of that time.

 

Keith Jahans

 

Published by Book Guild Publishing Ltd
and available as a paperback and ebook


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