Trig Point Walks on the Isle of Skye and Raasay

Please join the Reading Room at 10-trig-pointEdinbane Community Hall for an illustrated talk by the authors of Trig Point Walks on the Isle of Skye and Raasay, on Tuesday, September 27.

Ian Stewart and Alistair Christie have written what readers dub ‘a cracking little book’ and ‘simply the best’. The comprehensive walking guide is a wee, pocket-sized gem that includes 56 walks to the best viewpoints on the islands of Skye and Raasay; 26 are ‘family-friendly’.

Keen walkers love to tick off the walks as they follow the routes that have been described with passion by the authors. With the well-drawn writing and photos, Trig Point Walks on the Isle of Skye and Raasay has become a classic for Skye and Raasay walkers and is delightful for arm-chair trekkers.

The authors will have plenty of island tales to tell and no doubt you’ll be able to share your favorite trig point stories with them. The fun starts at 7:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

Admission is free for members; £5 at the door for non-members.

Ian and Alistair will be signing books and be sure to check out our little cache of good reads. The Reading Room’s Volume 2 of our ‘Words from an Island’ Anthology Series, A Stillness of Mind, is also available for £8.5.

If you would like to make an evening of it, feel free to join some of us around 6:00 dinner at Edinbane Inn. Reservations are needed, unless you do first come, first served in the pub.

 

For information, please contact us at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or message us at The Reading Room – Skye on Facebook.

 

 

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Claire Macdonald to Tell All – we hope!

If you have ever been within the energy field of Lady Claire Macdonald, her stories about her life at Kinloch Lodge won’t surprise you. Neither will the fact that she is the author of almost twenty best-selling cookery books, including Seasonal Cooking, The Harrods Book of Entertaining, The Claire Macdonald Cookbook and Entertaining Solo.ClaireMacDonald

In 2012, Birlinn published her autobiography, Lifting the Lid, and in 2014, the paperback was released. The famous, self-taught cook and writer will be sharing stories from her book at the June meeting of the Reading Room.

In Lifting the Lid, Claire looks back over four eventful decades to tell the story of how she, her husband, clan chief Godfrey Macdonald of Macdonald, and their family built up Kinloch House Lodge, from insignificant beginnings in a remote but spectacularly beautiful corner of Skye, to the great culinary institution it is today. Full of anecdLifting the Lid3otes and humour, it also reveals how hard it was to achieve their dream.

Cited as one of the world’s top 25 small hotels in Conde Nast Traveller magazine, Kinloch’s restaurant is one of only 16 restaurants in Scotland to have been awarded a coveted Michelin star in 2011.

Claire Macdonald is one of the best known figures in the culinary world today. A hugely successful and critically acclaimed cookery writer for over thirty years, she has garnered numerous awards and has appeared regularly on TV and at cookery demonstrations and courses all over the globe.

She is also Patron of Scottish Food Fortnight and The Association of Scottish Farmers’ Markets. In recognition of her contribution to Scottish food, Claire was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

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Kinloch House Lodge

Lady Claire was awarded the OBE in the 2014 New Years Honours List for her services to the hospitality industry and for her services to charity in Scotland, most notably for her work with Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Claire Macdonald is a vibrant presence and a captivating speaker, and we are feeling quite privileged to have her spend the evening with us at Edinbane Community Hall, on Tuesday, June 28. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m., and everyone is invited. Members are free; non-members £3.

Refreshments will be served. Great deals will be found in our book corner and you can pick up our latest Anthology, ‘A Stillness of Mind’, for £8.50. Memberships are always available. For further information, email to skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk, or message us on Facebook.

 

 

Author Michael F. Russell to Appear at Reading Room

At last, a writer who isn’t up with the Willow Warblers – or at least, admits he isn’t. Great news for us slackers who always have been given the impression that 6 a.m. coffee was the prerequisite to successful production.MichaelFRussellPhoto

Michael F. Russell, author of Lie of the Land, has given us a novel that questions how far the state will go to preserve an orderly society and examines an Armageddon in which human technology plays a central role. The Reading Room is happy to welcome him as our guest reader on Tuesday, April 19.

It’s always useful to go to the person on the street to see how a product really performs, so I went to Amazon reviewers, all of whom were happy with their book purchase. One wrote, ‘The backdrop of a controlling state, universal lack of privacy and technological advances being used against the population all add to the sense of dread, which contrasted well with some of the richly descriptive passages about the Highland landscape. There are a couple of story strands in particular which were very effective and left me feeling uneasy. We might all like to think we’d behave honourably in difficult times, but would we?’

Michael Russell Lie of the LandAnother person said he bought this book on something of a whim from a bookshop in Portree, whilst holidaying on the West coast of Scotland, and hasn’t regretted it. ‘It’s something more than your standard post-apocalyptic fayre, largely because the author concentrates more on characterisation (particularly the lead, Carl) than on technicalities (though there’s enough of that for the plot to be believable). Altogether, a well-constructed book that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in sci-fi.’

Other readers expressed similar positive reactions:

‘I would not call it anything like ‘terrifying’ as other commentators have, but more an imaginative exploration about what happens when society breaks down.’

‘Loved the atmosphere, great story. What a great book, you can hear the silence as you read, the tension is heavy, like a storm building, slowly.’ 

‘What I liked about this, was the descriptive writing, you get pulled into the book, as if you are walking with the characters. It would make one hell of a TV show.’

The Scotsman’s reviewer, Stuart Kelly, observed that one of the most persistent complaints visitors (and residents) make about contemporary Scotland is the patchy mobile phone coverage. He wrote, ‘This serves as the novel’s clever, twisted conceit…Russell’s premise is similar to Stephen King’s in Under the Dome, but, I have to say, he does a better job with the conceit. While King, as usual, fluffs the ending (childish aliens did it!), Russell manages to give a coherent reason for the predicament, build to a closure without it becoming a black and white shoot-out, and suggest that the story of (the main characters) may not be over.’

Kelly added, ‘Despite the horrors that slowly, slyly emerge, there are also passages of genuine beauty.’ Russell impressed the reviewer by avoiding the ‘cosy catastrophe’ trap, and Kelly finishes with the comment, ‘It is as cosy as a handful of gorse raked across your back. It announces a talent to be followed closely.’

Michael F. Russell is deputy editor at the West Highland Free Press and writes occasionally for the Sunday Herald. His writing has appeared in Gutter, Northwords Now and Fractured West.  Lie of the Land was shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award in November 2015. He lives on Skye with his partner and two children.

The evening will begin at 7:30 p.m., with the 2016 AGM, at Tigh na Sgire, in Portree, next to the Community Hall.

Mr. Russell will appear from 8:00 p.m. Everyone is welcome to join us for the evening. Entry for Michael F. Russell is £3, non-members; members are free.

Refreshments will be available. We also have some good reads for sale in our book corner and copies of our second anthology, A Stillness of Mind, are available for £8.50. See you there.

How far would you go to avoid death?

frozentolife_cover

Frozen to Life is the true account of futuristic writer D.J. MacLennan’s extraordinary answer to this question: If he cannot escape the constraints of a ‘natural’ lifespan, he will, upon his death, have his severed head preserved in a vat of liquid nitrogen in the Arizona desert.

This book illuminates the astonishing science behind his decision, and the transformative power of the patternist thinking that carried him to it. From the initial confusion and isolation of his upbringing on the Scottish islands of Benbecula and Skye, comes a curious inkling that collides with dominant religious dogmas and alters relationships: What am I? What is a ‘self’? Must selves die?

Neuroscience – including the latest theories about the way mind emerges from the architecture of the brain – interweaves with philosophy, Buddhism and personal testimony, to create a fascinating and emotionally-charged insight into the psyche of a ‘cryonaut’ in waiting.

Written with empathy, searing insight, and dark humour, Frozen to Life is both cutting edge and bleeding heart: a postmodern experiment in falling in love with life while preparing for death, in ways we can change ourselves radically without losing our treasured humanity, and iFrozen toLifeauthorphoton coming to understand that neither life nor death is what we think it is. How far would you go to avoid death?

Author D.J. MacLennan was born in 1971, in an old schoolhouse on the almost-drowned Scottish island of Benbecula. Since 1975, he has lived on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

The Alcor cryonics facility currently houses some 115 liquid-nitrogen-vitrified ‘patients’ – of whom over two-thirds are head-only ‘neuropatients’. Dr. Max More, CEO of Alcor, in Scottsdale, Arizona, says that cryonics is ‘simply an extension of emergency medicine’, suggesting that cryonics is saving a patient by buying them time for science to catch up. Of around 980 members worldwide, MacLennan became one of only a handful that have allowed their names to be made public.

On Tuesday, March 22, please join the Reading Room for an enlightening discussion with D.J. MacLennan. We meet at Tigh na Sgire, Park Lane, Portree, Isle of Skye, next to the Community Center, from 7:00 p.m. Refreshments will be served. £3 for non-members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Evening with Poet Mark O. Goodwin

Mark o goodwin

Our February guest for the Skye Reading Room is poet Mark O. Goodwin. He will be reading a selection of his work written over the last fifteen years. 

His standout publication is Dà Thaobh a’ Bhealaich / The Two Sides of the Pass (Ravens Press, 2009), a collaboration with poet Maoilios Caimbeul. This unique book is a bilingual poetic conversation that takes place from the two sides of Skye’s Trotternish peninsula, with an exchange between two cultures, English-speaking and Gaelic-speaking. It is about the places to which you belong, families and kinship, and ties to the land.

In a 2009 interview, Goodwin stated that one thing that struck him was the great sadness in the Skye landscape and he wanted to find out why. This is interesting, because the poem selected by the Scottish Poetry Library from this book to be included as one of the best of Scottish poetry in 2009, is a delightful, humorous and ironic poem, titled Skye. In it, the narrator is having a relationship with the Isle of Skye: 

Skye, are we falling out or is it

that we are spending too much time

in each other’s company…

Tha thu gam chur às no chiall. You’re driving me nuts.

The poet said he tried to make (Skye) ‘a lived and loved place with all the confusions that an incomer might have, especially when feeling a Gaelic word or two in the mouth for the first time’.

 Mark O. Goodwin’s poems have appeared in various anthologies, including the Reading Room’s first anthology, Words from an Island. His work has been published in Northwords Now; Literal World Magazine; The Eildon Tree; and Nerve Magazine. He has received numerous special awards and performed at StAnza festivals and others  throughout Scotland.

Our Tuesday, February 23rd meeting will convene from 7:00 p.m., at Tigh na Sgire, on Park Lane, in Portree, next to the Community Center.

All are welcome. Entry is free for members; £5 for non-members. Teas and coffees will be available and our Book Stall will offer a variety of good reads for sale.

Mark O. Goodwin’s appearance is partly funded by Live Literature via Scottish Book Trust.

 

St. Kilda Evening with Roger Hutchinson

Whenever I feel myself getting close to writing some tired words about an extraordinary writer, I click for the Rebelle Society, a blog of wild souls, of uninhibited women writers. After carefully perusing the long list of titles written by Roger Hutchinson, I have decided he, too, must be dubbed a wild soul, and he has been put on the top of my anticipated reads.

The Reading Room is privileged to present Roger Hutchinson at the Skeabost Hotel on Tuesday, September 29. Lucky us.

Hutchinson has a penchant for compelling subjects; hence, for the bookshop browser, his books have a good chance of being selected from curiosity as well as hope for some interesting non-fiction. The author’s profile is visible to any visitor here on Skye, as a columnist for the West Highland Free Press. Look closer and you will see his prominent ‘Calum’s Road’ displayed in every shop where books are found. Calum was the last man in North Raasay in the late ’60s and Hutchinson has made sure the story of the road he built will live poignantly in our memories.

More of his books are easy finding: Angus MacPhee, of South Uist, spent fifty years in an asylum after WWII, as ‘The Silent Weaver’ of grass art objects. The famous shipwrecked ‘Polly’ of Whisky Galore fame is exposed by Hutchinson with humour and insight – a favorite book among his readers. Lord Leverhulme’s confrontation with Hebridean Islands seamen is fascinating reading, in ‘The Soap Man’. 

His eclectic output has included books on Aleister Crowley, James Boswell and ‘Euro-Slang: The Practical Language Guide to Boozing and Bonking from Mykonos to Malaga.’ (Did I say ‘wild soul’ with sense of humour?)  By Facebook remarks and his own books on games and sports, it is easy to deduce the author is also an avid sports follower. He was awarded  ‘British Weekly’ Sportswriter 1996.

At the September 29th Reading Room meeting, Roger will be talking about the research and writing of his latest book, ‘St Kilda: A People’s History’.  He says, ‘I’m really looking forward to meeting my friends from the Reading Room again, and talking about an island community even more distant than Skye!’

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Roger Hutchinson on St. Kilda.

    The author remarks that St Kilda is the most romantic and most romanticised group of islands in Europe: ‘Soaring out of the North Atlantic Ocean like Atlantis come back to life, the islands have captured our imagination for hundreds of years.’ 
    Their inhabitants, Scottish Gaels who lived off the land, the sea and by birdcatching on St Kilda’s high and precipitous cliffs, were long considered to be the Noble Savages of the British Isles, living in a state of natural grace.
    ‘St Kilda: A People’s History’ explores and portrays the real life of the St Kildans from the Stone Age to the 20th century.
    Roger Hutchinson has 40 years experience of Hebridean islands and he digs deep into the archives to paint a vivid picture of the life and death, work and play of a small, proud and self-sufficient family.
    This book is a new and unprecedented history of the islands because it demolishes myths and shows how life really was lived in that beautiful archipelago.
    From the earliest Neolithic settlement to the voluntary evacuation in 1930, ‘St Kilda: A People’s History’ is a fascinating, funny and original account. It is the story not only of a sensational place, but also of the extraordinary people who called it home.

Everyone is welcome to attend our evening event, which will begin at 7:30 p.m., with ‘Glimpses of Hirta’ – a poem in two voices, by Linda Henderson.  
Our special guest, Roger Hutchinson, will take the floor immediately following Linda’s reading.
Please join us at Skeabost Hotel from 6 p.m., for supper in the dining rooms, or a light meal or snacks in the pub, before the event.
There will be a charge of £5 per head for non-members. Annual membership, which supports the work that we do throughout the year, is available on the door.

It’s all about the ‘ring of language’

As a recap of our June 30th fun with author, poet and mad storyteller, Ian Stephen, here are some photos from the day.

Poets Beverly Mann and Norma Walker getting a taste of Ian’s sense of humor.

Writer, Kevyn Smith…it’s the effect Ian has on people.

The Skeabost House Hotel was a-buzz with the things that the Reading Room is all about – language and the reading, writing and sharing of it. In our afternoon workshop, Ian focused on recipe poems, which involved the writing and then the editing, which magically turned sketchy or wordy stuff into surprises.

There was a lot of literary metamorphosing going on in Lachlan MacDonald’s original wood-panelled chapel turned billiard room. Ian reminded the poets that claritas was a great classical virtue but, as we chopped and re-arranged, he asked, ‘Is there a risk in giving too much away?’ He was especially interested in Kevyn’s willingness to kick out what he liked best.

The evening began in our new location, the stately dining room cum literary salon, with open mike readings by A.S. DeWitt Angel, Kevyn Smith, Norma Walker, Francis Mitchell and Morag Henriksen.

 

Ian Stephen and Francis Mitchell.

Morag Henriksen reads sequel to ‘Scenery of Dreams’.

Himself becoming a legendary maritime storyteller, Ian’s tales come bounding out of his gills (as I see it!) and we were treated to a couple of his funny stories right away. After a cocktail break, Morag delighted all with a reading from her humorous, in-process sequel to Scenery of Dreams, and Ian re-took the floor to read from his first novel, A Book of Death and Fish. 

Fish we understand, with Ian, but ‘why death?’ someone asked. The author explained that the stories had been compiled over many years and to turn the chain into a novel meant it had to have something cohesive, something special. Referring to how theatre is developed, he said his protagonist/narrator’s character changes with each story…and there is a death in every story.

We look forward to watching Ian Stephen’s star rising, and though he seems like a fireball on a stage, it is evident the webcams will be catching him for a long time. 

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We are happy to announce that award-winning author, Louise Welsh, will be our special guest on Tuesday, July 28, at the Skeabost House Hotel, for an afternoon workshop and evening reading.