Flower of the Forest by Zena Meyler

To continue the coincidences of my poignant last post. (and that wasn’t a pun) just before the Armistice Service in Kinghorn, we were away down in Yorkshire, staying at a lovely BnB near Pickering called Lowther House.

We ate some fish and chips before strolling around the quaint streets of Pickering, where we found a second hand bookshop. Unable to walk past I got into a conversation with the owner about how difficult it must be to categorize books, when he asked us where we were staying.

‘Ah,’ he said. ‘There was an author living at Lowther House at one time. Just a minute,’ and he went off searching along the numerous shelves of books and found:

The copy was a bit battered and so I brought it home to read, aware a week later that the book in my hand was a reflection of the service at the War Memorial a week later when ‘Flowers of the Forest’ was played so beautifully on the bagpipes.

The following morning we went down to breakfast and were astounded to be faced with walls of prints by Jack Vettriano. We asked the lady why this was and she replied,’

‘I was in the forces based up at Inverkeithing, Fife and we both fell in love with his work.’

The oddest additional coincidence was that only two week’s before Roger and I had visited the popular Jack Vettriano exhibition in Kirkcaldy Galleries, the place where JV was first stirred with inspiration to teach himself to paint. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Singing Butler by Jack Vetrianno

The above print can be bought here on his official website.

This amazing artist was self taught, was rejected by the main stream art world but has made millions!

What a story.

As far as the book, it was a great read once you got over several moments which were not very PC in today’s world. It was a good book of its time and evocative of the traumas of life during WW1.

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Filed under Book reviews, Book Shops, Fife, Inspiration, WW1

Flowers of the Forest

Yesterday, Armistice Day, was a poignant reflection on wars gone by and current conflicts in the world. The words that comes to mind, both attending the service here in Kinghorn and watching the Cenotaph on TV are:

respect, humility, sadness and a longing for peace and freedom, but not without cost if necessary

It was a beautiful day here as we headed down to the Kirk by the Sea:

Kinghorn Harbour, Fife

After the short service we followed the piper, the scouts and cubs, the Lifeboat Crew and members of the congregation up Station Road to the war memorial.

Prayers were said, two minutes silence was observed, the bugle was played and wreaths were laid – a sense of unity with towns and villages up and down the UK.

In the minds of those present I’m sure each could tell a story from WW1, WW2, The Falklands (40th anniversary) Afghanistan, Syria ….) but the tale of bravery of two local lads on the memorial was read out.

Sunflowers had been planted in the summer with an underplanting of blue lobelia, in recognition of friends in Ukraine but, strangely, one remained in bloom for the occasion. Then, as the piper played ‘Flowers of the Forest’ fading into the distance as he walked away from us, a ‘haar’ descended. (a Scottish sea fog)

As Rev Jim Reid said afterwards, nature has a way of reflecting the atmosphere of the occasion and speaking to us in a way that nothing else quite matches.

We were treated with soup and coffee in the Church (Hall) by the scouts, after which folks walked around reading the the wreaths from local organisations and groups in Kinghorn.

The only remaining sunflower, gave it’s own tribute to lives lost and a battle that still goes on in Ukraine

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Filed under Events, Fife, The Great War, WW1

Diana’s Autumn Book Review (7) ‘The Island of Missing Trees’ by Elif Shafak

Why did you choose this book?

I was browsing in Waterstones and was drawn firstly by the title, which was intriguing and also mentioned an island; pertinent following my recent series of Islands of Inspiration. Secondly I loved the cover and finally, when I turned the novel over, I read David Mitchel’s review:

“A wise novel of love and grief, roots and branches, displacement and home, faith and belief. The Island of Missing Trees is balm for our bruised times.”

Wow, I thought. I already felt in tune with the author and the themes of the novel, even before I’d opened the first chapter. They were themes akin to my own writing, leading to immediate empathy before I had a chance to absorb myself in the magic of this book; one which is truly remarkable.

Did I feel empathy to any particular character?

I’d often thought of trees as special; the way they oversee happenings in their sturdy, solid form; patient and ancient. To have a fig tree as a character bowled me away. I was hooked!

Yes, I loved the love story of two teenagers from different backgrounds; Turk and Greek. The tension of forbidden friendship, let alone passion and so I felt so in tune with Daphne as she sneaked out of her home to meet Kostas in war torn Cyprus, the love of her life.

Is there a lasting thought or memory from the book which remains with you long after the novel is finished?

So many that it is hard to describe them without being a spoiler.

There’s the fig tree of course, whose thoughts transcend cultural divide and prejudices. Its survival, against the odds, whose story I will not elaborate on here. I want you to be as delighted as I was as you read.

There was tragedy and loss and yet an overriding dream that love will prevail, however hopeless it may seem.

There are very few books which you are reluctant to leave behind you as you turn the final pages. As you close the novel for the last time a sense of loss overwhelms you; You are truly bereft ~ ‘The Island of the Missing Trees’ is one of those books.

Brilliantly written, evocative of the times depicted therein.

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