Recent Links I’ve Loved

Jelly fish at San Francisco aquariumIt’s time for a round-up of things that have caught my eye recently – an eclectic collection.

Commercial women’s fiction, the much-derided chick-lit, is unfairly sneered at. As Lizzy Kremer, an agent with David Higham Associates, points out in this post on her excellent blog, writers of CWF look into the lives and hearts of ‘ordinary women’ and find the small details that make exceptional stories.

This piece in the Herald on Sunday by Iain MacWhirter reflects on the state of the Scottish independence movement one year on from the referendum. My own feelings on independence changed during the pre-referendum period and what really decided me was the arrival in Scotland of the three leaders of the main UK political parties to tell us why voting ‘Yes’ would be a disaster – so patronising, so manipulative, so much lying. I actually thought that their arrival would increase the Yes vote – after all, a bunch of English people turning up and telling the Scots what to do…? But fear won over optimism in the end, a lack of confidence triumphed over a desire to make a new, more equal country and a year on, here we are, still part of the UK. But Scotland is a more vigorous place, with a renewed awareness of how Westminster’s attitudes and decisions affect us and even if there isn’t another referendum in the foreseeable future, hopefully we won’t slide back into apathy. Sorry – that para was a lot longer than I intended!

On a slightly lighter note, I’ve always been fascinated by Agatha Christie’s disappearance for 11 days in 1926. On the one hand, I’ve always thought that if a financially independent woman decides to take a few days out after her husband tells her that he has been having an affair and plans to leave her then that’s completely understandable. On the other hand, she did seem to be leaving clues that would incriminate her feckless husband such as the abandoning of her car near his mistress’ house. After she was found, eleven days later, at a Harrogate Spa hotel, she always claimed not to remember anything of the period or how she had got there and there have been many possible explanation put forward from it being her publisher’s publicity stunt to a fugue state brought on by shock.  To celebrate the 125th anniversary of Dame Agatha’s birth, Kate Mosse has been commissioned by the BBC to write a short story, telling a fictionalised account AC’s stay at the hotel from the point of view of another character at the hotel. It’s great and I do suggest you pop over to the BBC and read it.

The Victorian Society has released a list of the Victorian buildings they feel are most at risk. One of them is Kinmel Hall in Conwy, North Wales, a vast pile with fifty bedrooms and accomodation for 60 staff. Since it stopped being a family home in 1929, it’s been a school, a hospital, a health spa and a conference centre. Since 1999 it’s passed through seven different owners, all planning (and failing) to turn it into a hotel. Now, it’s in a poor state of a repair and it’s almost impossible to force the owners of this Grade 1 listed building because it’s owned by a company based in the British Virgin Islands, an off-shore tax haven. It’s a dreadful shame to see it in this state and I hope that it finds a buyer (in some ways, it’s a bargain at £1.1 million) before it reaches a stage where demolition is the only option. Such is its vastness though that I’m not sure what viable options exist. For more on country houses and buildings at risk, do read Matthew Beckett’s blog – The Country Seat. It’s always fascinating, if sometimes heartbreaking and although he hasn’t blogged so often recently, I hope he finds time to go back to it.

So there you go – things that have caught my attention this week – country houses, Scottish independence, women’s fiction and a literary mystery. Eclectic.

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