Category Archives: Fife

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

Islands of Inspiration (4) The Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, Fife

I confess that this was my first and only visit to the Isle of May, taking the ferry from Anstruther with friends, including author Hamish Brown. We did not realise how fortunate we were, because the following day was the last day trip to the island in 2022. The warden David Steel @Steelybird, who I follow on Twitter for his amazing photos, needed to shut the whole island down due to bird flu. Tragically, this has decimated the population of sea birds up and down the east coast of the British Isles, especially on nearby Bass Rock, famous for its gannet population.

I say that this is a confession. When walking the coastal path and writing The Healing Paths of Fife we walked most of the way between the Forth Rail Bridge and St Andrews, but there were a few wee sections which were purely in my imagination, alongside some timely research, and one of these was a trip to the Isle of May.

How the island helped me in Mind, Body and Spirit

The boat trip over was a matter of mind over body as the boat rolled in the stormy waters. Hamish, however, was bobbing up and down, eating his sandwiches and pointing out various sightings of puffins, other sea birds and even seals. I was sooo relieved to be on terra firma and so was my husband!

We had brought a stick with us because we had to walk through a colony of nesting terns. The stick was not to thrash about, as it was explained to us; the birds go for the highest point and so an umbrella would do just as well. I was mighty glad not to have my head dive bombed, I can tell you.

Once we had safely navigated both of those assaults to our bodies, we set off at a pace following Hamish to a favourite spot he knew where the puffins hung out, called Bishop Cove. It was magical. They are such heart warming creatures. We sat among them watching them waddle to their burrows, peer out to sea or dive down to the water, skimming the surface in search of a place to fish. It was as if a calm had descended. We sat on the rocky ground eating out picnic, absorbing their world all around us, almost at eye level with them. They made us smile. They made us laugh. We hardly spoke as a silence crept over us. We certainly lived in the moment.

How I was inspired by the island

The Isle of May as a place of pilgrimage has always inspired me; its location at the mouth of the Firth of Forth en-route between Lindisfarne and St Andrews. One day, I believe, my writing will take on the direction of a pilgrimage in days gone by, just as it did in The Healing Paths of Fife; a personal fantasy memoir and pilgrimage describing when we first relocated from Bedfordshire to Fife including ‘meeting and talking with famous folks along the way. The lives of saints, whose unusual names have also intrigued me since moving to Scotland; St Mungo for example sounds like a perfect subject for fact/fiction. His name crops up in so many places we have visited and his birth is a legend in these parts.

Meanwhile, I am still searching for the direction my writing journey should take in the here and now; but I do believe I’m edging closer to feeling at peace in knowing the way I should take next.

On our journey home it was as still as a pond and I fell fast asleep. Unusual for me.

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Filed under Fife, Fife Fantasy, Inspiration, The Healing Paths of Fife, Writing