Starting secondary school is a great experience when it includes learning about perspective for the first time, writing your first ever essay (on the subject “A Day in July”), learning about Andreas Vesalius bodysnatcher (the first modern anatomist), and discovering that Maths isn’t just times tables.

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Two Booklists

2016-02 Ben A' an

When I was visiting Glasgow recently I popped Kathleen Jamie’s The Bonniest Companie into my bag, thinking I’d be able to read it whenever I stopped for a cup of tea. But you just can’t read this book in public – greetin’ in a chip shop = not good. For in poems completely unsentimental but sparking with meaning and danger, she leads you into the poem and then “she floors you”.

I loved her two books of essays Findings and Sightlines and am now reading Among Muslims, which you could call a “travel book”. It’s an account of the time she spent in Northern Pakistan and although it’s her personal story somehow she avoids all egotism, instead allowing the reader to come close to the people she meets, allowing the reader to interpret what she sees.

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I’ve dreamed of traveling to that part of the world; today it seems an impossible dream. I read about it instead. The Road to Oxiania by Robert Byron (no, not that Byron) , An Unexpected Light by Jason Elliot, The Great War for Civilisation by the amazing Robert Fisk, The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan.

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For another booklist I am very grateful to fellow Kathleen Jamie fan Iain from Waterstones.

The Wild Braid by Stanley Kunitz
Bento’s Sketchbook by John Berger
Pilgrim At Tinker’s Creek by Annie Dillard also The Abundance
The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
The Wild Iris by Louise Glick
A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland c1695 by Martin Martin
Seeing Things by Seamus Heaney
About Life by Barry Lopez
Scottish Ballads edited by Emily Lyle
The Penguin Book of Scottish Poetry edited by Imlah and Crawford
I got stuck right into this list over the summer holidays. I particularly enjoyed the People chapter of The Living Mountain and the essay Total Eclipse from The Abundance.
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The Bonniest Companie

Aren’t we the bonniest companie? Come with us…

The haunting end of The Hinds is inspired by the ballad Tam Lin which I knew from Fairport Convention’s version on Liege and Lief. I went off searching for Tam Lin and instead I found a poem in the Child Ballads wikipedia entry where the following is a list of themes from the ballads:

romance, enchantment, devotion, determination,

obsession, jealousy, forbidden love, insanity,


uncertainty of one’s sanity,

the ease with which the truth can be suppressed temporarily,

supernatural experiences,

supernatural deeds,

half-human creatures…

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Brown woolen clog-socks (Cantabria)

I visited the exhibition Del Tejido al Vestido (trans: “from the cloth to the clothes”) to see what I could see in the way of wool.

I was most impressed by the tools for the linen-working trade which all had the savage look of instruments of torture.


There were two exquisite pairs of richly cabled socks, evidently both knitted by one person, one in dark dark natural brown wool and the other pair in natural cream, which were labelled as having come from Tresviso. Other than those, there were no hand-knitted garments : it seems that the most common use of wool was felting escarpines to insert into your clogs.

The pisa was a huge old wooden water-powered machine for felting by bashing the cloth. At Ledantes, near Potes, they have reconstructed one and you can see it working in this film.

The traditional dress of men and women is largely made of felted (or should that be fulled?) wool with a linen shirt.

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There was a tiny, very pleasing display of vegetable-dyed wool yarns. Ortiga = nettle, Cebolla = onion, Nogal = walnut and Equiseto = horsetails!


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White Woolen Togas (from woolwinding’s blog)

I’ve had an astonishingly ‘crafty’ summer. Plus, there’s work (bechod) and, what with one thing and another, blogging has taken a bit of a back seat. But I’ve still been brooding on fulling. I realise lots of people will know all about this, but I didn’t. Well, I knew bits, but only bits. I didn’t […]

via Fulling cloth: smells and stamping in Rome — Woolwinding

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​A great day up in the Valle de Liebana.

Walking around the Pico Mamozan above the village of Cucayo.

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Kathleen Jamie – The Bonniest Companie

Kathleen Jamie’s ‘The Bonniest Companie’ reviewed

Dave Poems.

Full Disclosure: Have read some of her work before. Jamie is a Scottish poet, which means there’s a much greater chance of bumping into her at some point. I’ve yet to see her read, far as I remember. Review copy provided by Picador. [Note that because of wordpress’ formatting limitations the quoted poems are left-justified, which on occasion takes away an element of their meaning.]

Review: Since her first collection in 1982, Jamie has garnered a Forward Prize for Best Collection and Best Single Poem, a Costa Prize, and four TS Eliot shortlistings. It’s a remarkable collection of plaudits, not least for a poet who seems increasingly repelled from the monumental gestures that such prizes tend to value; the pugnacity of the title poem from 1994’s The Queen of Sheba, for example, might appear out of place in The Bonniest Companie. Though the poetry itself is no less undaunted…

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