Wednesday, 3 December 2014

About my Scottish Memoirs: What is a Vignette?

I am writing my Scottish memoirs as a series of vignettes so it seems appropriate to share what that means with my loyal reader. :)

vine leaf from pixabay
vine leaf with thanks to Pixabay

What is a vignette?

The origin of the word vignette was 'something that could be written on a vine leaf', in other words a short descriptive scene or sketch. It is free-flowing, a stream-of-consciousness writing, that is prompted by a particular focus. It might be a character, an event in your life, a setting or an observation. Each vignette stands on its own, a little slice of life that is usually particularly vivid and is written from your point of view. One could describe a good blog as a vignette but it could be anything that resonates with you, anything that is begging for your attention and for you to capture in words.

How to write a vignette

Vignettes are best approached as free writing, that is, stream-of-consciousness writing where you give your mind free rein. This doesn't mean it is sloppy writing because after you have captured that first slice you still need to edit it, and edit it again until it is smooth and as perfect as you can make it.
To write your own vignette, first of all sit quietly at your computer and let a topic come to the surface of your mind. It might be a memory from childhood, say a day at the zoo, your first day at work or the birth of your first child. Make it something that is ringing bells, begging to get written. Let's take a day at the zoo to use as an example. Take time to remember the day - was it warm and sunny or damp, who was with you, what did it sound like, smell like, how did you feel? Bring up memories of the taste of candyfloss or the pleasure in feeding monkeys or the feel of fur as you petted animals in the petting corner. Once you have submerged yourself in all that day meant to you, write it down, type it out. Keep going until it is all on the screen. At this stage don't worry about spelling, grammar or format - that comes later.
When you have it all down, go back and edit it once, then leave it alone for a day or so and come back and edit it again.

Monday, 1 December 2014

A Scottish fun poem@ Is a doo a dove Dad by Jim Douglas


collared doves
twin doos photography by annmackiemiller

Is a doo a dove/ Is a cow a coo Dad

A sparrow jist a spyug
And is a wall a waw Dad

Is a dog a dug
She's gonnae warm ma ear Dad

 Instead o' skelp ma lug.

Ma teacher's awfy posh Dad
 She changes aw oor names
Wee Shuggie now is Hugh Dad

And Jimmy's ayeways James
Ah'm scunnered wi' it aw Dad

The way she shoogles words
Ah must be glaickit no 'tae ken

That feathered friends are burds.

Ye learnt me aw wrong Dad
Ye cawd a ball a baw
Your wife is now my Mother
You said it wis ma Maw
Ah'm no share hoo tae spell Dad

Ah'll niver pass ma test
Whit is this ah'm wearin' Dad’

A simmet or a vest?

Ah gave ma nose a dicht Dad
When it began tae dreep
She gave me sich a fricht Dad

Ah near fall aff ma seat
“Haven't you a handkerchief”

She roared as if in pain
No, ah jist yase ma sleeve, Miss 

And wiped ma nose again.

Ah cawd a mouse a moose Dad
Ah shid hiv held ma tongue
That's manure oan yir bits Dad

Nae longer is it dung
It's turnips and potatoes

No tatties noo and neeps
She said I've ripped my trousers

When ah'd only torn ma breeks.
There's twa words fir awthin' Dad
They're jumbled in ma heed
Hoo kin I be well bred Dad

When ah keep sayin' breed
Now is a crow a craw Dad

 Is a bull a bull

A'll try tae get it richt Dad
I will, I will, ah wul


Friday, 31 October 2014

A Old-Fashioned Scottish Recipe: Mince, Tatties and Neeps

Low-fat Vegetarian Recipe using vegetarian mince

mince, potatoes and turnip plus turnip lantern
Mince, Tatties and Neeps with Tumshie Lantern
What is mince and tatties? Traditionally, it is minced beef served with mashed potatoes and mashed turnip or swede. It's an old Scottish favourite and being a vegetarian doesn't mean I miss out on it. Vegetarian mince made with quorn has about 75% less fat than beef mince, is a good source of protein and cooks up into many tasty dishes. This page features traditional mince with vegetables, served with potatoes and mashed turnips - ah the childhood memories this evokes!
I grew up in 1950s Scotland, a time when the country was still recovering from the Second World War, when food had to be cheap as well as wholesome. Mincing the beef was a way to make it spread further but actually, since I have never liked the texture of meat in my mouth, was one of the only ways my mother could get me to eat beef. It is interesting to note how popular Second World War cookbooks are becoming as we realise how much healthier many of the dishes were.

turnip lantern
tumshie lantern

  • Prep time: 15 min
  • Cook time: 30 min
  • Ready in: 45 min
  • Serves: 4

  • Ingredients

  • 250 gram quorn mince
  • 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion - peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots - peeled and cut into rings
  • 1 small turnip - cleaned and cut into cubes
  • 1 small potato - peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 pint vegetable stock (broth)
  • black pepper and salt to taste

How to Make Mince and Tatties

mince and tatties
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion until it is soft and transparent.
  2. Add carrots, turnip and potato and coat with the oil/onion mix.
  3. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add mince and stock and seasoning.
  5. Bring to the boil.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  7. Serve with mashed potatoes and mashed turnip.
  8. For these simple boil potatoes and turnip until soft then mash with a little butter. 


I like my veggie mince packed full of vegetables.
This is a recipe that can be adapted in many ways -
change out which vegetables you use
add herbs and tomatoes for a completely different taste
add HP brown sauce or curry powder to give it some spice

What is Quorn 


The main ingredient in Quorn is what is called a mycoprotein, and is made from a fungus like mushrooms. It is high in protein, low in fat and it contains very few calories. It is also high in fibre which helps maintain a healthy bowel and digestive tract. It also contains amino acids and, as it has no saturated fats, is thought to help reduce bad cholesterol which is the leading cause of heart disease and strokes.
NB - Egg whites are used as binding agents so this is NOT A VEGAN product.

Memories of Halloween in Scotland

Halloween in Scotland in the 1950s and '60s

tumshie lantern
Tumshie Lantern - Scottish Turnip Lantern
We never really celebrated Halloween in Scotland - to many staunch Presbyterians it was a bit too pagan for their liking.

 But - we had a few traditions. My dad would make me a tumshie lantern - no pumpkins for us, we made do with a turnip. OK my attempt on the right is a bit pathetic and Dad would laugh. His were always a bit more elaborate and I'm pretty sure he had as much fun as we did with the finished product. Then Mum made mashed neeps from the insides to have with our mince and tatties. Recipe on the way. 

For some they would attach a string to the tumshie so they could carry it and go guising. I suppose that was short for disguising and a forerunner of today's elaborate Halloween costumes. 

Kids would go house to house complete in home-made outfits and with tumshie lanterns. They were expected to do a party trick - sing a song, tell a joke, do a little dance - and in exchange got a few pennies or a sweetie. I wasn't allowed - Mum thought it was undignified and Dad didn't take with the concept of begging when there were so many worse off than us. That didn't stop me sneaking out occasionally with friend Shelagh to go guising to her Gran's in the Glengate. Granny Bruce made fantastic gingerbread men and I was always looking for an excuse to sing. 

Brownies and Guide groups usually held parties at Halloween. Again we made our own costumes, I once spent hours stitching newpaper cuttings onto a dress so I could go as a paper lassie and Shelagh and I once won the fancy dress contest as Beauty and the Beast complete with cardboard snout. 

Games always seemed to involve getting in a bit of a mess. If you weren't bobbing for apples you well trying to eat treacle scones that were hung from a rail by string. With your hands behind your back it was harder than it seems and black treacle found it's way into all sorts of places. 

A simpler time? Probably. A better time? That remains to be seen. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Memoir: Introducing the Little Red Town

Kirriemuir panorama by Duncan Stephen
Kirriemuir Panorama by Duncan Stephen under collective commons
Introducing The Wee Red Toun
The Wee Red Toun is Kirriemuir, in Angus Scotland - named for the red sandstone of many of the buildings. I grew up  there in the 1950s.  The country was still reeling, still recovering from World War II.  Rationing was fresh in minds, shortages were common and growing your own vegetable was essential.  But everyone around us was the same; no television for a few years yet (except the Bruce’s next door), no telephone in our road (except ours), and no one with a car, that was something you hired for the holidays.  
Kirriemuir Angus Scotland
The Square Kirriemuir as it looks today
by Ana via collective commons
Kirriemuir was a small market town in Angus, tucked under the glens and supervising the fertile Valley of Strathmore. Its ancient name was Carrou Mor, Gaelic for ‘large quarter’, a way of measuring and identifying different jurisdictions. The town was divided into sections by braes: Northmuir, Southmuir, Westmuir and Kirriemuir itself which I suppose was the ‘east’ part for I haven’t found another.
valley of strathmore angus scotland
The Valley of Strathmore by Jan under creative commons

From the flat Vale of Strathmore at the base, imagine a town build up on levels. On the first elevation was Westmuir and to the south, the Southmuir. To reach the town centre from either you needed to go down then up the other side of a valley cut by the Gairie Burn. The south approach was via Bellie’s Brae and the west, Tannage Brae named for the tanning works that had disappeared before my day.  The town centre had a short high street, a square - the old market place -  and a collection of streets and wynds (narrow lanes) clustered around the old church, the Town House and Toll Booth.  From there was a skelp up a steep hill, called The Roods (another measurement) and all part of what was our extinct volcano. Right at the top was The Hill and the Northmuir.  For us, we knew The Hill as a playground for rolling Easter eggs, running wild and meeting friends, but more of that later. 
There too, behind a tall stone wall, lay the town cemetery.  There was something comforting in knowing your last resting place was watching over the town, across the fertile valley stretching away into the distance and with the hills with the glens guarding your back.
camera obscura Kirriemuir
Camera Obscura on the Hill at Kirriemuir
by Sandy Stephenson via Creative Commons

On the Hill was a camera obscura in the cricket pavilion. I believe it is still there, one of the few left in Scotland. But for us neither the obscura nor the cricket was of much interest, but the cricketers at practice – that was another thing.  In return for fielding for them, we got big glasses of Robertson’s Orange Squash and, of course, the chance to practice our flirting with the big boys.  
Old Kirriemuir from Sandy Stephenson Creative Commons
While I was growing up, there were two factories in the town, descendents of long gone 18th century cottage industries when linen was a staple in Scottish manufacturing.  Proto-industrialisation they call it now, though none would have recognised the term then.  ‘Getting by’ was what they would have said.  Kirrie was well known for its linen and many of the houses still exist, little ‘but and bens’ with one side of the house for living and the other that used to house one or more looms. Up the town they might be two storeys, one for living, one for work.  
In the 18th Century the Gairie Burn had provided water for seeping the stinking linen and our Commonty, - green common land- was used to spread the linen to bleach and dry in the sun.  In our days it was something else entirely but that is something else I’ll come back to.
Factory and housing were build in local red sandstone that named us The Little Red Town, immortalized by Kirrrie-born author J.M. Barrie of Peter Pan fame.   
The town clock and Peter Pan statue Kirriemuir
from Sandy Stephenson via Creative Commons
Time was measured in different ways in Kirriemuir. The chimes of the town clock could be heard throughout the whole town while factory workers were ruled by the ‘hooter’ and, us, by the school bell.

The hooter sounded morning and noon, then again at 1pm and 5pm calling the faithful to work or releasing them for food and rest respectively.  For those working overtime, well they must mark the time themselves.
To the Glens - Kirriemuir is called the gateways to the Glens
Glen Clova by Sandy Stephsson via Creative Commons

Foreword for my Scottish Memoirs

From time to time I will post some of my memoirs - this is the Foreword

            Let me prepare you for what is to come, dear reader.  This book has no pretensions as a serious history tome.  Instead it is a conversation. Or, perhaps, better say a series of conversations: memories written on a vine leaf that provide a glimpse of life for a young lass growing up in 1950s and ‘60s Scotland. 
If you haven’t met the term before, a vignette is a short descriptive sketch that depicts a single event, an observation, a setting or such. The origin of the word comes from “something that can be written on a vine leaf.” It is a free style of writing, some call it stream of consciousness writing, with each vignette standing on its own. For my purpose here, each is a wee slice of life from my memories of growing up in a small Scottish town called Kirriemuir.  I have changed the names used to protect the innocent, but each vignette is a truth as I saw it.  And if I ramble some, well that is okay, it is MY story.
Was it Churchill who said, “history is another country”?  They had the right of it. I sit here with my laptop on my knee and access to the world a click away, far removed from that 1950s girl. 
So, dear reader, pull up a stool, put your feet up, pour yourself a nice cup of tea and … enjoy! And if you need help with the odd Scots word, there is a glossary at the back.
Old Forfarshire from wiki commons
Kirriemuir lies in the heart of Angus, called Forfarshire in old times. It nests snugly under the Angus Glens and overlooks the fertile Valley of Strathmore. 
Angus on a map of Scotland
How to find Angus on a map of Scotland thanks to wiki commons

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Dougie Maclean Virtual Concert

My Dougie playlist - 21 hour of Dougie Maclean and wonderful musicians.

Dougie Maclean and fiddle

A Dougie Maclean Virtual Concert 

Dougie MacLean's Perthshire Amber Music Festival

Perthshire Amber

Perthshire Amber 2014
Unfortunately I can't get there this year :( but this is one music festival I can highly recommend. 

Ten days of wonderful music from Scots and all around the world. There are also talks and walks, workshops and open-mikes all in wonderful atmospheric venues in and around Dunkeld and Perthshire - including Blair Castle!

Don't be surprised if you see folk knitting everywhere, in pubs and theatres, cafes or just in the park. It is all part of the Big Knit where people knit squares to make a huge blanket that is raffled at the end of the festival. 

Scotland is beautiful in Autumn and Perthshire even more so.  There is loads to see and do and you will meet hundreds of wonderful people. The festival is very much a family affair and they take great pains to make sure you feel part of the family. 

The final hurrah is held in the smallest whisky brewery in Scotland which is worth a visit all on its own. 

Not sure how many tickets are still available, people come from all over the world so they go quick. Click the link to check. 

Dougie sings Caledonia - a 'little song' he calls it he wrote when he was in France and feeling homesick.

Perthshire Amber music festival
Dougie Maclean

I've been lucky enough to be there and will certainly make sure I go again. I just have to get better organised!

You might like to read about my experiences and see my photos - the two links are in the captions of these photos.

My photo of Dougie in a bar somewhere in Perthshire! 

Blair Atholl Castle Perthshire
Blair Atholl Castle Perthshire - usually hosts at least one concert.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Photo Gallery St Andrews Cathedral, Fife, Scotland

St Andrews Cathedral in Autumn Sunlight

I went to university in St Andrews so it holds a special place in my heart and I visit as often as I can. You can read about from the link above.

St Andrews Cathedral, Fife Scotland
St Andrews Cathedral, Fife, Scotland
I was last there in November 2013 on a beautiful autumn day and couldn't resist snapping a few shots though I am not really a landscape photographer.

For the history buffs among you - The Cathedral was built in the 12th century and the sheer size of it give you an idea of how important St Andrews was in that era. It was the central Roman Catholic diocese.
St Andrews Cathedral, Fife Scotland
St Andrews Cathedral, Fife Scotland
When the cathedral was abandoned after the Scottish Reformation many of the stones were carted away and used to build houses throughout the town.
st andrews cathedral
St Andrews Cathedral, Fife Scotland in Autumn sunlight
The square tower you see here is St Rude's Tower and was actually here before the cathedral. You can climb it now - for a price - and get a great view of the town. 

Looking at Dean's Gate from the Cathedral, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Looking at Dean's Gate from the Cathedral, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Dean's Gate is now the post-graduates residence for the University of St Andrews.

Welcome to my Scottish blog

Forter Castle Glen Isla

Roaming, ramblings and reminiscences of Scotland

Here, as it grows, you will find all the things about Scotland that I love: the scenery, the people, the music, the history.

Hi, I'm Ann and I'm a real Scots lass - well I was a lass a long time ago. Born in Kirriemuir, Angus - not far from Forter Castle actually.

 I've travelled the world and now live in Yorkshire - yup - Yorkshire. I am constantly homesick so this blog is as much for me as it is for any readers who happen by.

I studied Scottish history at the University of St Andrews so it will be no surprise when you find the odd history post makes it way here from time to time.

It is also a place where I can share my photos on line.

I hope you will join me from time to time and enjoy your trip to Scotland.
highland cow and calf
Highland Cow and Calf, Lintrathan Loch Reserve Kirriemuir