The FVA’s Pop-Up Coffee Shop returned to the village hall last week for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. Around 20 folk called in for a chance to catch up with old friends and to meet some new ones. As ever, there was a good spread of tasty home baking on offer.
The next Pop-Up Coffee is on Tuesday 11th October, 10.30 – 12.00 in the village hall.
Tackling Japanese Knotweed
Japanese knotweed (JK), first introduced to the UK as a decorative garden plant in Victorian times, has now spread uncontrollably into the wild and especially near water. The plant looks spectacular and can grow rapidly as much as 10cm (4 in) in a day in summer and up to 2.1 metres (7ft) high overall. It has deep-rooted underground stems (rhizomes) which are tough, resilient and fast-growing – they spread easily without natural restraint and can damage buildings and roads. Rhizomes can reach 7.5 cm (3 in) in diameter and penetrate at least 2 m (7ft) in suitable soils (https://tinyurl.com/5n96hzv6). If pieces broken or cut off either stem or rhizome are left on the ground, the Japanese knotweed will grow again voraciously.
Some say it’s just nature but the problem with Japanese knotweed is that it prevents our native plants from thriving. Its rhizomes undermine riverbanks increasing the likelihood of flooding and disrupting salmon fisheries and access to rivers. In Scotland there is a Code of Practice for dealing with non-native species. It is an offence to plant non-native plants in the wild or allow them to spread into the wild, e.g. by allowing it to spread from your own land through inactivity, by dumping garden waste into the wild, or by moving contaminated soil (https://www.invasivespecies.scot/law-non-native-species).
In Fearnan, Japanese knotweed grows along the loch shore and inland by the burn that flows down by the Brae. We need to tackle this invasive plant before too much damage is done but fortunately help is at hand! The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI)is a 5-year partnership project which aims to work with local organisations and volunteers to control invasive non-native species along riversides in Northern Scotland, for the benefit of our native wildlife and communities.
Following the well-attended McLean Hall meeting in June about Japanese knotweed with SISI Project Officer Mark Purrman-Charles, four volunteers from Fearnan have undergone two days of training on how to control Japanese knotweed and apply the appropriate weedkiller. The initial phase of Japanese knotweed eradication will start in September and continue until the first frost. It will be necessary to continue to control the plant every year, during the period from July to the first frost and may take 3-4 years to complete or longer.
There are a number of important recommendations for tackling Japanese knotweed:
What to do if you have Japanese knotweed on your land:
The 4 local volunteers (mentioned above) have now completed their training – a 2-day PA6 course for the professional use of pesticides and they all passed their theory test with flying colours! This was followed by a practical assessment about a week later. Well done, folks! They are now ready to start tackling the Japanese knotweed in and around Fearnan, under the careful supervision of SISI’s Mark Purrman-Charles.
And here they are ready for action:
More Recycling Opportunities
Recycling opportunities in at Clach an Tuic in Fearnan have again expanded and you can now recycle:
the flexible pouches for all brands of coffee beans and ground coffee.
all brands of air, home and laundry products.
As a reminder, the following items can be recycled at Clach an Tuirc:
Dental products – electric toothbrush and flosser heads, flossing sticks, interdental brushes and dental floss containers
All brands flexible coffee pouches
All brands plastic air freshener containers, cartridge caps and car air fresheners
All brands flexible packaging for laundry washing capsules and pods
All brands flexible packaging for dishwasher tablets
Only Lenor Tumble Dryer sheets
All brands flexible packaging for wipes
All brands trigger heads
For ease of reference going forward, a new Recycling page has been created on www.fearnanvillageassociation.com with the list of items that can’t go in your blue bin but can be recycled in the boxes at Clach an Tuirc. The link to the Recycling Page appears at the top of the home page, under the header photo.
Fearnan Book Club
In September we reviewed The Couple at Number 9 by Claire Douglas. This book was chosen by a member who, like many of the group, enjoys crime novels. When she read that two bodies had been discovered practically on the first page, she thought it would be a good choice!
This was murder with a difference as both deaths had taken place many years before the bodies were discovered in the garden of a cottage inherited by a young couple. A nightmare scenario which soon became fraught with emotion.
It was an easy read, fairly predictable, enjoyable and for some a page-turner. Some found it confusing with characters changing names and identities. All agreed that the interesting characters were well portrayed and found it easy to empathise with those most affected by the events. Especially Lorna, who discovered that both her parents had been murderers! We sympathised with Rose who suffered from dementia but felt that perhaps this enabled her to hide information.
There were a few twists which most of us didn’t see coming and it was felt that perhaps all was wrapped up too tightly at the end.
The book to be reviewed in October is The Survivors by Jane Harper. As a group we have enjoyed and reviewed a few of her books set in Australia.
This book is set in coastal Tasmania and is described as a powerful and absorbing thriller ………
………..a body found on the beach in a small coastal town triggers a chain of questions and tears open old wounds.
MacMillan Coffee Morning
Fearnan Village Hall Committee is hosting a Coffee Morning for MacMillan Cancer Support in the hall on Saturday 1st October at 10.30. All welcome.
Just a reminder that there will be an Extraordinary AGM for Fearnan Village Association members on Saturday 17th at 17.00 in the village hall. The purpose is to approve the Association’s accounts for the years 2019 – 20, 2020 – 21, 2021 – 22.
The AGM for 2022 – 23 will be held in Spring 2023.
We’re delighted to say that the ever-popular PopUp Coffee Shop is restarting on Tuesday 6th September, 10.30 – 12.00 in the village hall.
It’s a chance to meet up with friends, old and new, from the village and surrounding area over a cup of freshly brewed coffee and some delicious home baking. Everyone is welcome to come and join us at what we hope will be the first of a number of events now that the threat of the pandemic has receded somewhat.
It’s £3 at the door for as much coffee and cake as you wish to consume!
There will be another PopUp on Tuesday 11th October at 10.30am and this year the Remembrance Service at the war memorial will be on Sunday 13th November just before 11.00, followed by coffee and tea in the hall.
Our pre-Christmas Mulled Wine and Mince Pies will return this year on Saturday 10th December, time to be confirmed.
FVA Extraordinary AGM
Due to the pandemic, the FVA has not had an AGM since 2019, and we are giving notice that we will hold an Extraordinary AGM on Saturday 17th September at 5pm in the village hall and to which all members are invited. This meeting is for the express purpose of approving our accounts for the years 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 and this will be the sole agenda item. In Spring 2023, we will hold a full AGM for the year 2022-23 and there will be the usual opportunity for discussion on a number of topics.
We are looking for new committee members, and if you, or someone you know, might be interested, please contact the Chair, Sue, on 830493 for further info on what it entails.
More Recycling Opportunities to be Available in Fearnan
Fearnan is once again burnishing its recycling credentials, and very shortly you will be able to recycle the flexible pouches for all brands of coffee beans and ground coffee, and all brands of air, home and laundry packaging, including Lenor (but only Lenor) dryer sheets.
Jenny Penfold is creating space for some more recycling boxes at Clach an Tuirc and we’ll let you know when she’s ready to accept these extra items. In the meantime, start saving your empties!
Jenny is also desperate for more pairs of old tights to support the young trees in their recently planted wood. If you’ve any pairs of tights or pop socks that are past their best, she would be delighted to recycle them in the wood.
Fearnan Book Club
A recent read was The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. It was a slow, leisurely and descriptive read. The main character Monsieur Jean Percy runs a bookshop on a barge but is more like a doctor who will select a book to treat his customers issues.
“Monsieur Perdu can prescribe the perfect book for a broken heart. But can he fix his own?”
We found the characters to be well portrayed, especially Jean’s neighbours in his apartment in Paris where they were humorously described. We empathised with Jean, feeling at times frustrated by his actions and wasted years. Then were pleased he found love, happiness and friendships along the way as he travelled on his book barge through France.
The pace of events echoed the slow pace of the barge and the detailed descriptions of the river trip. It gave some a warm feeling as the traumas of the diverse characters he met along the way were resolved and he cleansed his soul. It felt at times, amusing, mournful, emotional and very French.
We liked the idea that books could heal people or fill the void in their lives. The book described the management of grief and illustrated that the characters had to go through misery to emerge safely at the other side.
A few of the group found it a difficult book to get into and found it didn’t flow well perhaps due to being translated from French. All agreed it became more engaging towards the end. Some felt there were no plot surprises. One of the group wondered if it would have felt different in another writer’s voice.
An interesting read for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.
We followed this by reading a contrasting genre. The Couple at No 9 by Claire Douglas, a Sunday Times crime book of the month.
If you’ve walked up to the Cow Park in the last few days, you may have noticed that the new seat has arrived. Since 2017 the seat in the Cow Park, which was dedicated to former resident Ann McGregor, has been popular with walkers, visitors and particularly, local residents. However, the weather was not kind to the wooden seat, and Storm Arwen was the final blow (no pun intended) leaving it beyond repair.
The new seat was delivered to the hall car park this week – a very durable, low maintenance version that the manufacturers claim will last for decades and they even say it will not blow over – but we’re not sure if the latter claim has been tested on a Highland hillside or with the sheep who will be delighted to see that their scratching post is back!
Ian McGregor made a significant donation to the FVA to enable us to purchase what we hope will be a very durable version and, by happy coincidence, he and his family were staying in Kenmore when the seat arrived. Their presence also helped solve the problem of how to get the 80-kilo seat into position, and once it had been carried up the hill in the Penfold’s pickup, Ian and Ann’s grandchildren made very quick work of lifting and carrying it over rough ground and putting it on its base.
The picture above on the left shows Ian with his daughters and 5 of his grandchildren with the new seat, the picture on the right was taken of the family in 2017, when the first seat was installed.
The Ploughing Match, Fearnan, circa 1930
This photograph has been in the Photo Archive of the FVA’s website for a number of years, but it is only recently that a written commentary on it has emerged, penned some years ago by the Scottish Country Life Museum (now the National Museum of Rural Life) in East Kilbride.
The picture is of a ploughing match that took place in the 1930s or 40s in one of the Boreland Farm fields. Fearnan Brae can be seen in the top right quadrant, leading down to the Tigh an Loan Hotel. The original crofts and associated ‘rigs’ are also just discernible.
The commentary on the photo is below, and just in case you are not fully up to speed with ploughing terminology, and you don’t know your coulter from your mouldboard, a little diagram has been added to the text!
Ploughing Match by Loch Tay, Perthshire
‘James Small brought out his new light swing plough in 1767, a time when the farming landscape of Lowland Scotland was beginning to change rapidly, and the ground was sufficiently improved in enough places for his plough to spread fairly quickly. At the same time, horses were displacing oxen as the beasts of draught. The Highland and Agricultural Society was formed in 1784, and numerous local Agricultural Societies followed, and in an effort to develop the skills of farm servants with the new implements, they encouraged the development of ploughing matches. They grew into popular annual events, the focus of friendly rivalry and social enjoyment.
‘The photograph was taken at Fearnan by Loch Tay in the 1930s or 40s with William Morrison ploughing. The horses are in show harness and many hours work will have gone into its preparation to compete for a prize as Best Pair. The burnished gunmetal and shining leather would be set off by decorations of white and blue, or sometimes red.
‘The skill lay in ploughing a straight fur or furrow and laying on the succeeding furs in perfect regularity. This is probably a special match plough characterised by a long mouldboard which turned the soil.
The soil is sliced from the land by the coulter projecting down from the beam, and the sock or ploughshare at the tip of the mouldboard. In this case (ie in the photo) the coulter is a sharp-edged disc. Here the beam is steadied by a wheel running on the land, making it easier to regulate the yird taken, or depth of cut. Concealed by the horses is the muzzle or bridle at the head of the beam which will have a fine sideways adjustment to regulate the amount of land taken or furrow width. The draught runs from the muzzle to the wooden yoke and swingle trees – the cross members–and through the ‘thaits’ or chains to the metal hames which bear on the leather and straw padded collar against which the horse pushes.
‘Every district had its prizes, cups and medals to complete for. The fraternity of the horsemen was a strong one and a distinct part of the character of the countryside.’
There is also a second photo from the 1920s. No location is given but as it was found paired with the ploughing photo, it may also be of Fearnan or the local area.
Thrift Shop Many thanks to all who donated goods, baked, or volunteered to help during the Village Hall’s recent stint in the Thrift Shop. The total earned for the week was £1500.00, a very valuable contribution towards the running costs of the Hall.
Fearnan Book Club
At our last book club meeting, we reviewed Dark Waters by GR Halliday, the second book in the DI Monica Kennedy series. Dark Waters does not play around. It is dark and disturbing from page one – in the best possible way. The plot is intricate and layered and peppered with revelations.
The book is set in the Scottish Highlands around Inverness and in fictional glens around Glen Affric where the location is depicted as sinister, dark and bleak and where horrors lurk for unwary visitors.
From the first chapter, the book hooked many of our group who found the intricate plot twisty, dark and interesting and in the end rewarding – after the sometimes difficult read. It is not a book for the faint hearted!
Some found the descriptions of dismembered bodies so gruesome that they were reluctant to read on. The personal lives of Monica’s team of detectives were revealed and developed as the storyline progressed and are a theme throughout the series. Most of the group were keen to read the first and subsequent books in the series and learn more about the complex histories and lives of the detectives.
We were fascinated to learn more about the history of the Scottish Hydro Electric projects whose deep, dark tunnels featured in the story.
Books for further reading on this topic are: Tunnel Tigers by Patrick Campbell and Hydro Boys by Emma Wood.
On a lighter note, the book to be reviewed in July is The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. This a gentler and more relaxing read to which book lovers will relate.
Jean Perdu runs a bookshop on a barge but is more like a doctor who will treat all your maladies with the right book. T
This moving story is about Jean Perdu’s coming to terms with the love he lost and the new love he will eventually discover. it is a delightful book of friendship and love and conjures up balmy, sunny days in France.
The Book Club Members have suggested some summer holiday reading:
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Jan-Phillip Sendker (a love story set in Burma)
The Fair Botanist,Sara Sheridan (historical fiction set in Edinburgh)
How to Raise an Elephant,Alexander McCall Smith (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series)
Death and Croissants,Ian Moore (humour in France)
Women of Troy, Pat Barker (historical fiction)
The Road Dance,John Mackay (a sad Hebridean love story, a Scottish bestseller, and now a film)
And finally, a book that may be useful at any point during your holiday is ………..How to Kill your Family, by Bella Mackie.
We have an abundance of local talent in the Blog this week, from the Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir and the Highland Perthshire Ukulele Group (both groups have members from Fearnan) to our own music maestro, Doug Law, and also some delightful craft work.
More Silverware for Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir!
Alan Brown of the Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir writes:
A semblance of normality returned to Highland Perthshire last Saturday when the 99th Perthshire & Angus Provincial Mod came home to Aberfeldy.
The weekend of the Mod has changed much since the days when coachloads of primary and secondary school pupils would descend on the town on the Friday morning to take part in Junior competitions involving music and song, prose and poetry, art and drama. The Saturday would see the Senior piping and fiddling and – the main attraction – the solo, duet, quartet and choral singing.
Unfortunately, the curse of Covid saw this year’s Junior Mod wiped out yet again but, as in 2021, there will be a Virtual Mod later this month.
The good news, however, was the return of a live Mod Saturday. It was heartening to welcome members of visiting choirs who expressed delight at being back in Aberfeldy after three years, meeting old friends and making new ones in keeping with the spirit of Gaeldom.
The competitive side is important, of course, and there were some excellent performances. Covid has reduced preparation time for all, but hardest hit have been the choirs, unable to meet other than virtually by courtesy of Zoom.
From a personal point of view as a member of Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir, our practices were affected negatively by unforeseen circumstances such as poor wi-fi coverage for the Zoom meetings and actual absence through Covid. When we did manage to sing together in person – as recently as February – safety measures such as open windows, sanitised seats, safe distances between participants and wearing masks meant that a ‘choir sound’ was impossible.
A positive reaction, however, was a determination to show that the Host Choir would be there on the day to give of their best. And didn’t we just!
We were victorious in the Seinn Choisirean: Puirt-a-Beul competition, winning the May Mitchell and Frances Matheson Cuach. We also earned a very creditable 3rd place in the Westcroft Trophy behind Cumbernauld and Lothian Gaelic Choirs.
One of the highlights of any Aberfeldy Mod Saturday is when the Massed Choirs relax after the rigours of competition by performing in the Square to a very appreciative audience and this one was again a great success and miraculously rain- free. Music from Junior pipers and accordion selections even had spectators and competitors tripping the light fantastic to round off a very satisfactory day.
So, what next? Plans are already being formulated to mark next year’s event because it will be the ONE-HUNDREDTH Perthshire & Angus Provincial Mod! And to emphasise further the importance of the Gaelic tradition in this part of the world, the Royal National Mod is taking place in PERTH in October for the first time since 2004.
Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir under Musical Director May Brown and Gaelic Tutor Gilliain Macdonald are well into rehearsals but will always welcome anyone interested in joining through a love of Gaelic music. We meet on Wednesdays in Aberfeldy Town Hall at 7.30 pm. Look out for our monthly news column in The Quair.
Mains of Taymouth for Ukraine
This weekend (18th and 19th June), Mains of Taymouth Country Estate and Golf Course ran a special fundraising effort to support Highland Perthshire Welcomes Ukraine. On Saturday, the event included live music, some of which was provided by our own Highland Perthshire Ukulele Band.
The rain managed to hold off, but the strong wind made it quite difficult for the players. However, they did well and were pleased to be able to be back performing after nearly 2 and a half years away from the stage, due to the pandemic restrictions.
Also on stage at the event was Fearnan’s Doug Law:
Jubilee Coffee Morning
The Jubilee Coffee Morning held on Saturday 4th June was a great success and described as “a glorious and special day”.
Approximately 50 adults and around 12 children all enjoyed the sunshine, cake, coffee, tea, juice and crown making etc. The sunny weather was a bonus, enabling outdoor seating and a relaxed atmosphere. After Covid restrictions, reconnections and new friendships were made.
With the balloons and bunting, it had a real vintage feel reminiscent of the 1950s. There was an extensive array of amazing cakes and assorted goodies including Polish treats.
It was especially great to see so many children enjoying the food, the art and craft table and having fun in the play park whilst forging international friendships with Ukrainian guests.
This month the Craft Group tried their hand at some felting work and spent a productive afternoon on Cath’s patio, trying not to be distracted by the view of the loch.
Cath had devised an excellent project for the afternoon and, in the space of a couple of hours, we had all completed a miniature felt picture, perfect for a brooch or lapel badge.
We were joined by Jackie from Strathtay.
Fearnan Book Club Review
A recent Book Club read was ‘The Miseducation Evie Epworth’ by Matson Taylor.
It is the summer of 1962 and sixteen-year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she be?
Up until now, Evie’s life has been nothing special: a patchwork of school, Guides, cows, lost mothers, lacrosse and village fetes.
The group overwhelmingly enjoyed this light-hearted, laugh-out-loud book, with its larger than life, melodramatic characters. It was a refreshing tale of just the right length and moved at a good pace. It captured the spirit of Yorkshire and its people, with mentions of trips to Betty’s Tearooms and rural village life. It was written from the perspective of Evie, about to leave school and perhaps acquire a stepmother.
Those of us of a certain age found it evoked memories of life in the 1960s with references to Adam Faith, then the Beatles, with posters on bedroom walls. References to Babycham, old ladies with hair nets, Izal toilet paper, Dansette record players and TV shows such as Take Your Pick took us back.
The book featured motherless Evie living with her hard working, busy and taciturn father on their farm and the money grabbing, wicked stepmother-to-be, Christine who, of course, was not liked by Evie. Evie’s kindly next-door neighbour gradually provided information to Evie and the reader about her mother and her parents’ back story. The story of her mother unfolded through reading her French recipe book.
Satisfyingly for the reader, Christine was revealed as a schemer, and all ended happily for Evie and her father.
Much of our discussion revolved round the differences between job and life opportunities and expectations for girls like Evie in the 1960’s and young people now.
Our next read, Dark Waters by GR Halliday is described as dark, gripping, and as atmospheric as the Scottish scenery it inhabits.
And Finally – Tackling Japanese Knotweed
This is a reminder about the meeting on Monday 20 June in the McLean Hall. It is an opportunity to hear the Project Officer for the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI), Mark Purrman-Charles discuss why Japanese Knotweed growth must be tackled and how free support can be made available. This is a Community Initiative which we hope will be well supported.
The Blog doesn’t often stray into health matters, but after 2+ years of the pandemic and lockdowns, most of us are in need of a little tonic or pick-me-up. So, when Music Tutor Edis Bowden got in touch about his wonder cure, the Blog’s ears pricked up.
As I write this, I am laid low by my old Demon: the bad back. I got a bit carried away with the gardening. I’ve had to cancel all my engagements but there is one that I’m not going to cancel: I am booked on a session of the “wonder cure“ for this very afternoon!
I am not alone in finding that this cure produces almost miraculous results on sore backs and a number of other ailments. As well as being a brilliant mood enhancer, it gives the old grey matter a good workout (much better than Sudoku, it is said) and it is very social which, in our post Covid era, is a huge benefit to so many people.
So, if I have piqued your curiosity and you’re wondering what this miracle cure is and where you can sign up, then now is the time for the big reveal: It is your local ukulele club!
When my back is sore, I play standing up and gently sway backwards and forwards which is wonderful for loosening up those tense muscles and bringing them out of spasm.
When I feel blue and devoid of any motivation – particularly in the long dark days of winter – I find the lively, cheerful ukulele vibe and the social aspect are like bottled sunshine. After a couple of songs, I am restored.
We are not the first people to notice the health benefits of the ukulele and, indeed, of music in general. In fact, the team that is dedicated to making Aberfeldy Scotland’s Healthiest Town (https://www.healthiesttown.org/ ) invited us to their launch party so that we could tell people about all the positive ways it improves your health and well-being. There is also a Scotland-wide ukulele project dedicated to spreading the benefits.
Now, I realise, many of you will be thinking that you couldn’t possibly participate in such a musical activity – perhaps because you’ve never done it before, or perhaps because you have been told you are tone deaf, or perhaps a teacher told you to leave the school choir. These are very common reactions, but one by one we have proved that they are all completely erroneous. A few short years ago many of the club members were in exactly that position, never having played a musical instrument in their lives yet wishing to do so. Over those few short years, we have taught them the skills that they need and now not only are they confident and joyful players but many of them have played in a number of public performances.
All human beings are natural musicians, it is wired into our heartbeat and the way we walk. Singing is very natural to all humans and although some of us may find it difficult to control the tuning of the notes to start with, with practice and a bit of guidance it becomes easier and easier.
The ukulele produces a wonderful joyful sound and is cheap and easy to get to grips with.
So, what are you waiting for? I have extolled the therapeutic benefits of the ukulele but please don’t let me give the impression that you have to have an ailment to come to the club. No! Prevention is far better than cure. In fact, I have left the most important reason for joining the club till last…….
…… because it’s fun!!!!
Your local ukulele club is Highland Perthshire Ukulele Club, which currently meets at the Kenmore Sports Pavilion on Mondays at 13.30 and Thursdays at 19.00. We can help with the loan of instruments to get you started and all training is provided.
Scottish Crannog Centre Trust
Many in our local community were devastated when the iconic Crannog structure was destroyed by fire last year. Since then, the Crannog Community has worked hard to bring forward plans for a new centre on a new site and now, almost exactly a year from the fire, those plans have been formally submitted to Perth and Kinross Council for planning consent.
Given the importance of the new Centre to our local area, we are pleased to reproduce an Open Letter from Nick Grant, the Chair of the Scottish Crannog Centre Trust. The letter recently went out to Members of the Trust, Friends of the Crannog, its neighbours, supporters, visitors and to the residents of Kenmore, Loch Tay, Highland Perthshire and beyond.
You will all know something of our long-held dreams and ambitions to re-vitalise and re- energise the iconic Scottish Crannog Centre, built nearly three decades ago, after the pioneering archaeological research of Dr Nicholas Dixon and others.
Well, now, here we are, one year on from last June’s devastating fire, with our application for planning consent now under final consideration by Perth and Kinross Council. After the amazing support shown by the local community, our visitors from around the world, major charitable trusts, the Scottish Government and many others, that same dream is about to become the reality.
Just like the original crannog dwellers would have done after a fire, we have rallied, packed up our stuff, looked for a new site and prepared a new beginning. The personal belongings of those same crannog dwellers – all safe in the museum collection – will come with us, to a new museum, a bigger and better Iron Age village, and a new and improved visitor centre at Dalerb.
We will be taking our time to build several crannogs, so that you and everybody else can come and see us, to watch, learn and take part in all the ancient crafts and skills our predecessors developed.
We aim to be Scotland’s most sustainable museum, a national treasure admired by all with social justice firmly at our heart. We will be a world-class centre for learning, social action, research and education, attracting new interest from all over Britain, Ireland and beyond, honouring the story of our predecessors and the national heritage of Scotland. In full, this will be a £12m scheme leading the way in bringing many more jobs, opportunities and visitors to Highland Perthshire.
But to do all this, we must have the first phase of our development open and ready to go by next spring, so there is a tough challenge ahead. We will continue to build on all our previous work as we look to do the things we do best – community engagement with our collections, immersive and hands-on experiences in our recreated archaeological ‘village’ buildings, multi-media activities, and embracing the individuals and communities, from near and far, that we are here to serve.
We will continue to develop our innovative and award-winning training programmes for our apprentices and others. We will continue to work with our local schools, including Breadalbane Academy, and with the voluntary and social support sector in Perth, Glasgow and elsewhere, to build new ideas for accomplishment and achievement.
We will research our collections and enable our objects to sing their own stories in many different ways to many different people. We will work in partnership with all those organisations and people who share our values and our ambitions. We will strive to be a museum in which everyone can take pride, a museum that matters, a museum that justifies our recent Museums Change Lives award as Best UK Small Museum.
All the support you have given us has been truly humbling. We respect and appreciate that trust placed in us, and we will work as hard as we can to repay that confidence and commitment. We are guardians of an incredibly special story with local, national and international significance. Together we can create a place that will tell the story of the crannog dwellers for generations to come.
We are fully committed to maintaining public access to the loch and picnic area at Dalerb and we look forward to working sustainably within our natural environments and considerately with everyone locally. I very much welcome your questions and your active involvement. We have an exciting time ahead of us working together to achieve these objectives and to really put Kenmore on the map of Iron Age history in Scotland!
The book group recently reviewed was The Hangman’s Daughter, a novel by Oliver Potzch. It was first published in Germany and then translated into English. It is the first book in a series of historical mysteries. It is a plot driven story with clear heroes and villains and triumph of good over evil.
The atmospheric sights, sounds and smells of Schongau in 17th century Bavaria were vividly described.
It is set in the days of witchcraft and herbs, where coffee was an exotic drink, dried toads were a remedy for the plague and the devil was believed to be real.
For some, this was a genre that they may have avoided if not a member of a book group. One, however, described it as being “right up her street.” As always there was a wide range of opinions. Some found it very dark, with scenes of torture and the deaths of children upsetting. Others loved the references to witchcraft, potions, and herbs. One struggled to take it seriously, conjuring up images of Blackadder/Benny Hill. This all added to our varied discussion!
The group recognised Jakob, the Hangman, as a compassionate, level-headed and intelligent man with a strong sense of justice and a determination to seek the truth. His occupations were in sharp contrast as he was also a healer with a range of medical textbooks and an extensive knowledge of the use of herbal medicine. Due to his despised profession, he lived outside the village walls with his family almost as outcasts. His daughter, as was traditional, was due to be married to another hangman but had a romance with Simon, the educated son of a physician.
We enjoyed the portrayal of Magdalena, the Hangman’s daughter, an intelligent, strong woman, a feisty heroine who knew her own mind and could look after herself. We warmed to Simon and how he worked with Jakob and Magdalena to solve the murders, expose villains, and reveal the evil in their society.
As an antidote, our next read was The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor a witty, funny and uplifting book set in the summer of 1962, an era that many of us could relate to! The review of this will appear in the next Blog.
For Your Diary
The McLean Hall, Fearnan, Committee invites everyone to come to the Hall for coffee and cakes on SATURDAY 4TH JUNE at any time between 10am – 12noon. Drop in to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and liberation from formal Covid restrictions! There is no charge at the door, but donations to Hall funds are always welcome.
The hall has the Thrift Shop from the 19th June to the 25th. This is a vital fundraiser for the Hall and help is needed. If anyone can spare a morning or afternoon to help in the shop, it would be very much appreciated. The contact for the rota is Elaine (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Karen for any donations of stock for the shop (email@example.com).
Spring has arrived! The spring flowers are out, the lambs are gamboling in the fields, and the Easter visitors are with us.
Among the visitors last week was the Russian author and historian, Anna Belorusova, paying a personal, friendship, visit. Anna has researched and written extensively about the group of Russian airmen who were based at Errol as part of the Allied effort during WW2, and about how 3 of them died, along with a Czech colleague, in a plane crash in the Cow Park (read the story here).
Through Anna’s research, the full story of the wartime crash was able to be told for the first time, and this led to the installation of the memorial stone and the tree of remembrance at an inauguration ceremony in 2019.
The Fearnan stone now has a sister stone in Errol Churchyard. It is formed from a single piece of Shoksha crimson quartzite, shipped from Russia in 2020, and it commemorates the Russian personnel who were based at Errol. Anna took some Fearnan daffodils to lay at the Errol stone and is seen here with Brigadier Sir Melville Stewart Jameson, who officiated at the Fearnan inauguration ceremony in his role as lord-lieutenant of Perth and Kinross.
Whilst at Errol, Anna was gifted a memento of her visit to the Loch Tay area by one of the people she met.
And the gift? It was a piece of pottery from the Loch Tay Pottery – made some years ago in Fearnan, by the late Andy Burt.
Anna has been very moved by the welcome she has received and the kindness shown by the people she has met in Scotland.
Spring always feels like a good time to try something new and some members of the Art Group decided to see if their artistic skills would transfer from painting on paper and board to painting on pottery, and took a trip to Going Pottie in Dunkeld.
Fortunately, they didn’t have to ‘throw’ the pottery first, and were able to get straight down to decorating their chosen pieces with all materials provided by the venue.
Looks like they are doing rather well. (By the way, the FVA could do with a new set of coffee mugs, nicely decorated with Fearnan scenes. No rush, just in your own time ……..)
The group were much encouraged for their next venture: decorating eggs, Fabergé-style. Sounds like a bit of bling could be on the cards.
It’s always good to hear about new facilities and there is a new studio in Strathtay running courses for local and visiting amateur artists. The first planned course is on printmaking techniques on the 4th and 5th June. If you are interested, please contact Jackie Forbes on Jackie.firstname.lastname@example.org
Music to the Ears (sort of)
Over the years, we have been able to feature red squirrels, deer, eagles, spring lambs, otters, osprey and much more, thanks to various wildlife watchers around the village. This time, thanks to Iain Ferguson, we are able to bring you a world premiere – a recording of a live performance by the Fearnan Frogs’ Chorus.
(It starts quite quietly so you may need to adjust your volume)
The Seat on the Hill
Many thanks to Jenny Penfold for providing the transport to bring the damaged seat off the hill. We have decided that it is best replaced as the repairs needed are extensive. The FVA will fund a replacement and are looking into alternative materials that may cope better with the exposed position, and the wind and rain. We will transfer the plaque remembering Ann McGregor to the new seat.
A smaller group than usual enjoyed and reviewed Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce. It was described as “a tale of following your dreams regardless of the cost and the beauty of true friendship.” The story starts in 1950s England and takes us to French-run New Caledonia in a search for the golden beetle.
The main characters are two women on a life-changing adventure. They were well drawn, vibrant and loved by the group. Despite totally opposite personalities, Joyce and Enid developed a firm friendship. Joyce’s protective shell slowly peeled away as she warmed to Enid, while everyone loved Mrs Pope and the other ex-pat ladies. The group’s opinion was divided over the character Mundic. How important or essential to the story was he?
The environment and weather were vividly described. Some felt it became rather repetitive and long winded going up and down the mountain seeking the elusive beetle. In fact, some felt it was immaterial whether she found the beetle or not, the personal journey being more important.
The last chapter provided a satisfying full circle (we like a good ending!) and the postscript about the real-life women on whom the author had based her chapters was fascinating.
In case you missed it, BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme on the morning of Saturday 9th April followed the River Tay from Killin to Dunkeld. Although a repeat from last year, it is an excellent, well researched programme that explored the subject though local voices. It’s available on catch up on BBC Sounds (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds)
The Upper Tay Transport Group started Community Lifts during the Covid pandemic, operating within the recommended health guidelines. Now well established the scheme covers the Upper Tay community with over 30 volunteer drivers across the area (www.uppertaytransport.org).
Based in Aberfeldy, the scheme which incorporated volunteer hospital lifts, aims to help people who do not have access to transport either regularly or occasionally, for example if your car is out of action, to get to appointments, social events or to the shops. To use the scheme, you need to register by phoning or texting 07388 236 233 or emailing email@example.com and then you can start to request lifts.
The Scheme’s Co-ordinator, Eileen Merry runs the day-to-day requests for lifts and then seeks drivers via a dedicated WhatsApp Group. When requesting a lift, you should give as much notice as possible, at least 48 hours before a journey so that a volunteer driver can be found. Your journey should then be confirmed at least 24 hours beforehand. Passengers pay expenses for the lift at 40p/mile and any parking charges. Lifts are not limited to the Upper Tay area, for example a lift to Edinburgh or Glasgow can be requested but would depend on finding a volunteer driver.
Anyone who would like to volunteer as a driver must be 18 years and over, although no upper age limit applies. The requirements are that you must have a full UK driving licence, be fully insured, and have a vehicle with a valid MOT certificate and undertake a Disclosure check. Other basic training, e.g. first aid can also be undertaken. One volunteer driver lives in the Fearnan area and can be booked for local journeys via the Co-ordinator.
The Seat on the Hill
The wooden seat perched high on the hill in the Cow Park has suffered during the recent storms and bad weather. We would like to bring it down so that it can be repaired, but it needs a 4×4 Truck or a quadbike and trailer to get up there and transport it to the village.
The seat was placed in memory of Ann McGregor. It was one of her favourite spots and since 2017 it has provided a welcome rest – and a fantastic view – for many walkers. Please help us find a way of bringing it down, so that it can be repaired – or replaced if necessary.
Kenmore Bakery are competing in the Scottish Baker of the Year Awards 2022-23. They have served our community well over the past 2 years, bringing essential supplies to the village, along with their more usual fare of bread and baking, during the long months when the pandemic meant that we weren’t able to go to the shops in the normal way.
And Jackie and Steven are still providing an important service, seen here after battling snow and winds to bring fresh goodies to the village.
If you would like to vote for them in the Customer Choice part of the Award, visit this link before 6th April and cast your vote:
Our review of The Thursday Murder Club, the debut novel by Richard Osman, had a mixed reception.
It was an amusing, easy read enjoyed more by some than others. Some thought it had been over hyped due to its well known author.
The style was intentionally simplistic, with short chapters and for some, aspects were ridiculous and of course not to be taken too seriously.
The dialogue was realistic and helped develop the characters and their interactions.
It was agreed that the interesting characters, residents of an affluent retirement complex, were well portrayed and complemented each other. They were trying to feel valued with a shared purpose ie. solving murders and perhaps escaping from their inevitability and reality.
The following quote resonated with some of the group.
“After a certain age, you can do what you want. Nobody tells you off except your doctor or your children.“
In typical Agatha Christie style, there were lots of red herrings and it was perhaps slightly confusing at the end with multiple bodies. As always, all was revealed and explained.
It was felt that it would make a good film and we identified a few well known actors who we thought would be suitable for the key roles.
As this was the first book in a series, some are keen to see what the four characters get up to in the next book “The Man who Died Twice.”
Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang once again catch the killer before it’s too late?
The FVA had hoped to restart the regular Pop-Up Coffee Shop as well as hold an AGM before Easter but, in view of the record (and continually rising) number of Covid cases in Scotland, we have decided to put this on hold and will review the situation after Easter.
Last month, we were saddened to hear of the passing of Victor Logan, who lived in Fearnan for many years.
Victor is remembered as a kind and generous man who was never too busy to help his friends and neighbours, be it helping Alastair Kininmonth build a polytunnel to protect his lambs, or some emergency plumbing for a neighbour in need.
He had a talent for entertaining us by composing and reciting stories about Fearnan and its inhabitants in verse.
In later years, his time was consumed by his devoted care for his wife, Betty, when she became ill. Initially he cared for her at home but later she moved into care in Pitlochry and Victor travelled almost every day to visit her. He had 4 daughters and they were a great comfort to him when Betty died and, after a short while, he moved away to be closer to his family.
And so we lost his recitations and poems. But he continued to visit Fearnan until the distance became too much for him to drive. On one such visit, he came to a coffee morning that coincided with his visit and before leaving, he told the tale of Sam the Plumber, of his sad demise, and the curious circumstances of the empty coffin! A salutary tale for any funeral cortege that might be tempted to stop off at the pub on the way to the burial!
Storm Arwen – The Aftermath
Storm Arwen brought devastating winds that wreaked havoc on our forests, both locally and across wider southern and eastern areas, with many, many trees blown over, branches torn off, and hazards created by fallen trees hung up on other standing trees. The highest recorded gust was an extraordinary 110mph. There were 3 deaths and 9,000 people were left without power, some for a week or more.
Storm Arwen had a disproportionate impact on trees because it came from the north, rather than the usual south-west direction. Trees are adapted to withstand winds coming from the prevailing wind direction by anchoring their roots in a particular way
Smaller, more aerodynamic trees, tend to grow on the south-west side of woodlands – but this means they are ill-prepared when the wind switches direction and they are hit on their weaker side.
Scotland lost some 8 million trees between the 25th and 29th November 2021. Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) describe the impact in the following terms:
Around 4,000 hectares of Scottish forests were affected by storm damage (an area a bit less than the size of Dundee).
About 1 million m³ of fallen trees (roughly 1/3 of what FLS would fell nationally in a given year and equal to about 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of timber).
In addition, there are hundreds of miles of trails closed for inspection and repair.
Scotland’s national forests are popular places for recreation, home to many businesses, and provide benefits to mental health. Even more fundamentally, trees have always played an important role in Celtic culture, representing both spirituality and wisdom. They were perceived to have life-giving properties, longevity, power, and practicality (shelter and warmth). Gaelic folktales are full of stories about them, and the damage caused by Arwen to our local forests really strikes at the heart.
Much of the responsibility for clearing up falls to Forestry and Land Scotland.
After the storm, their first considerations were to lives and livelihoods, such as making key areas safe, and working in collaboration with other parties to repair utilities (including Fearnan’s transformer, seen on the right), repair damage to public roads and other public infrastructure, and clear up issues on adjoining land.
After fixing these headline issues, they moved onto timber and trails and a huge amount of planning and re-planning is going to be needed. Almost all of our forests have 10-year plans, which may need to be heavily revised in the wake of the damage sustained from the storm. Existing harvesting operations may need to be re-scheduled or cancelled, and resources diverted to try and recover fallen trees.
One positive benefit is that after clearing, FLS will start to think about establishing a new generation of trees, one that is more diversified, mixing up species to create a more rounded environment, and which will help our forests fight off diseases and pests. In some areas, the destruction caused by Storm Arwen may, in time, provide an opportunity to create new woodland with more benefits for the climate, environment, and future timber production. It will also expand the provision of wildlife-rich dead wood.
FLS say that Storm Arwen has caused more damage to Scotland’s forests than any other weather event for many years. They are working hard to get things cleared up and they hope to be able to open more forests and trails in the near future, but some badly affected areas may take months to repair.
Fearnan RecyclingCommunity Collection Point
Jenny Penfold writes:
The recycling community collection point based at Clach an Tuirc in Fearnan has been doing well, with heaps more medicine blister packs coming in meaning another HUGE bag of them being dropped off in Perth recently (please note it is just the blister packs that are needed, other medicine packaging is usually recyclable through the Council collection), plus some dental products, printer cartridges and tights for trees! So, a big thank you to everyone for their efforts to ‘Reduce-Reuse-Recycle’!
However, I’ve had some feedback that it’s sometimes hard for folk to get here to drop things off. So, what I propose is to set up a ‘daisy-chain’ of collection points, run by other keen recyclers, in some of the other areas in our widespread Community Council area – or even beyond! They would be their local drop-off point for their community and would then drop it in to me in Fearnan whenever they’re passing, and I can collect things together and then send them on from here. This would mean we could divert even more recyclables from landfill.
I’m thinking perhaps one or two drop-off points in the Glen, plus Fortingall, Coshieville and Ben Lawers, for starters. Volunteers are needed! I can provide posters for you, and even boxes if required! And as you know your areas best, you can suggest the best places for your drop-off point – either at your house, or at a community space, like the school or village hall?
So if anyone is interested, please get in touch with me on 07917 685626 or firstname.lastname@example.org and we can take it from there.
(Just a quick reminder where to drop off your recyclables in Fearnan: we’re right next to the Boar Stone, the last white cottage on your right when you leave Fearnan, going towards Fortingall. All collection boxes are in the front porch which faces the road, and the front door is always open! So, no need to wait for us to be in, or to ring the doorbell – although we love to see you – it’s fine to just ‘drop and run’!
Fearnan Book Club
The book read over the festive period and reviewed at the January meeting was Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021.
Jean Swinney is a journalist on a local paper, trapped in a life of duty and disappointment from which there is no likelihood of escape.
When a young woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud.
As the investigation turns her quiet life inside out, Jean is suddenly given an unexpected chance at friendship, love and – possibly – happiness.
Most described it as an easy, gentle read for this time of the year and the subject matter related to a possible virgin birth seemed to fit the season. It began with reference to a train crash disaster which some of us forgot about until it impacted on the outcome of the story.
Set in the suburbs of SE London in 1957, there was unanimous agreement that the atmosphere and attitudes of the 1950s were very well depicted. Some of us could relate to aspects of this period! The role of the female journalist then was to write household tips and recipes and leave investigative journalism to the male reporters. The narrow-minded morality and snobbery of the times, repressed feelings and sense of duty were all very well portrayed. The topic of parthenogenesis was fascinating, and the detective work undertaken by the journalist was interesting.
Some found the premise of a possible virgin birth quirky but the outcome predictable. A few commented on how things seemed to slow down in the second half of the book.
A few of us didn’t like the twist at the end and had hoped for a happier outcome for Jean after so much bleakness in her life.
Sadly, due to Covid, once again we didn’t meet in person. This book would have provided endless opportunities for discussion and for some, memories of the 1950s and post war life and attitudes.
The book for review in February is The Thursday Murder Club by RichardOsman, the first book in the bestselling Thursday Murder Club series. This was chosen as a humorous book to lift the spirits in the long winter days. We hope to be able to discuss this in person.
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders. But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?
And Finally …….
The Big Shed is holding its AGM on 23rd February at 7pm in The Big Shed.
They are planning to hold it in person, but if the Covid situation worsens again, they will hold it on Zoom.
If you plan to attend, please let Wendy know (email@example.com), so that she can either print enough agendas (if it’s in person), or send the link (if it’s a virtual meeting).
Please note that the copyright of all photos published on this site belongs to the person who took the picture and the copyright of all text lies with the person who wrote it.
Events such as Storm Arwen and the associated loss of electricity and water can have you digging deep – not just to find inner levels of resilience but digging deep in cupboards and drawers to find torches, candles and other useful things. It was during just such a search that Sheena and Donnie found a rather special box of candles. Not only were they manufactured By Appointment to Her Majesty, but these Price’s candles cost 2 shillings and 6 pence (12.5p in decimal money) and were purchased at McKerchar and MacNaughton in Aberfeldy.
The fact they were priced in pre-decimal currency means they must have been bought before 1971 – making them at least 50 years old!
Sheena thinks they came from Nick and Jim’s house, when it was cleared, but as they pre-date Nick and Jim coming to Fearnan, they must either have been in the house when they bought it, or possibly come from the Thrift Shop. (Nick and Jim volunteered in the Thrift Shop on a regular basis.)
It’s quite something that this box of candles had never been opened, given the number of power cuts there have been in the last 50 years – to say nothing of the 1973 three-day week during the Miners’ Strike and the mass blackouts around the country (hands up if you remember that!). But they’ve been used now – called into service by Storm Arwen!
Telling Stories – The Witches of Drummond Hill
There’s no shortage of old folk tales from this area and usually they come to us either by having been handed down as part of our oral history, or by having been found in dusty archives by researchers. But these days, it’s not surprising to find they arrive via Facebook.
The following appeared recently on the Scotland’s Scenery FB page, authored by one Andy Vale;
“Well, I was walking up Drummond Hill near Kenmore and I bumped into a local old man (80s+). He was dressed in a long black trench coat, black hat and had a twisted wooden walking pole. We spoke, and he told me to look out for the Witches’ Trees and that if I followed a certain path, I would be watched by these Witches as I passed by.
Apparently, a local coven of Witches had been cursed and turned into gnarly old trees. For most of the year they can’t move and are only able to watch jealously those who are walking freely. However, if you stop and look at them, they will remember you and, on the days they are released from their spell, they re-gather in their Coven and seek vengeance on those who have gazed upon them.
The old man told me a poem, but I can only recall the first and last lines, something like:
The witches’ trees of Drummond HillAs you pass by, they wish you ill.
So ne’er stop and ne’er stand still
By the witches’ trees of Drummond Hill.
I have to be honest my skin tingled, and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I walked by the trees. And yes, I stopped, I looked and took the pictures!“
Andy even provided pictures and a map, so you can go and test your own nerves – it’s not far. However, should you, like Andy, be worried about the witches’ vengeance, be assured that a small twig of rowan wrapped in red thread will see them off.
Many thanks to Tim and Dan for passing it on to The Blog.
Storm Arwen Compensation Payments
Following the power outages caused by Storm Arwen, those households that qualify for a compensation payment from SSEN (i.e. loss of power for 48 hours or more) will be pleased to hear that SSEN has announced a 20% enhancement on the statutory payment that the regulator Ofgem requires them to make to consumers. This means that customers who were without power for 48 hours will receive £84 and those who were without electricity for longer than 48 hours will receive an additional £84 for each 12-hour period that they did not have power. SSEN will issue the payments to customers automatically by cheque.
Fearnan Village Hall: Yoga Classes Starting 7th January
Emma Burtles, an experienced yoga teacher will lead a regular yoga class in Fearnan Village Hall on Friday mornings, starting at 10.15am and finishing at 11.30am. New members are invited to join the class which is transferring from The Big Shed at Tombreck. Yoga experience is not essential, and Beginners are welcome.
As Covid-19 restrictions continue to apply, ideally you should bring your own mat or rug, but equipment can be provided.
The class is run on a sessional, pay-as-you-attend basis and so if you can’t come on a particular Friday, you don’t need to pay. The charge per class is £7/person.
To sign up for classes or for further information, please contact Ros Grant by email firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile 07802 874 867.
Fearnan Book Club Review
The seasonal choice of book for our last review of the year was The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, described as a fairy tale for adults. It was a well-written former Pulitzer Prize finalist that took its inspiration from a Russian fairy tale where a snow girl came alive. It was set in Alaska in the 1920’s and well suited to this time of the year. The descriptions of the harsh Alaskan wilderness and the cold, snowy landscapes were so clearly and vividly portrayed that you could almost feel the cold.
One of the group, reading it by candlelight during the power cut, said it made her feel even colder! This was in stark contrast to one of our previous books ‘The Dry’ which was set in the scorching heat of the Australian outback. There were multiple themes to be explored and discussed e.g. grief, loss, hope, love, possession, joy, relationships and friendships etc.
An older couple Jack and Mabel had come to Alaska for a fresh start after the earlier loss of a child, a little boy. They are homesteaders, clearing land and hoping to farm it in order to claim the land as their own. The couple struggled with the harsh environment and, without supportive neighbours, would not have been able to go on. We agreed that you would want a neighbour like capable Esther who lived a busy, messy chaotic family life in sharp contrast to Jack and Mabel. We cared about the characters, feeling Mabel’s pain, loneliness and sadness and loving Esther’s ‘can do’ attitude. Jack’s anxieties and feelings of loss were also acknowledged and how less focus and understanding is given to men and their need to also explore their feelings.
After the first snowfall the couple build a girl out of snow and, the next morning, they glimpse a young blonde girl wearing the same scarf and mittens, running through the trees. Is she the snow girl come to life? This little girl Faina seems to be a child of the woods apparently surviving alone in the Alaskan wilderness, hunting with a red fox at her side. (Her spirit guide?) We enjoyed the ethereal writing describing Faina and the joy her presence brought to the couple as she grew up, giving them a purpose. However, was she real, supernatural, or a figment of their imagination? Cabin fever perhaps?
Following Faina through her world in the forest, we were enthralled by the detailed descriptions of the natural world particularly the animals and their habitats.
Mabel’s son later has a relationship with the grown up Faina and this results in a child, a little boy who is embraced in Jack and Mabel’s life.
The short chapters and few characters made it an easy book to read and even those of us who prefer plot driven texts, enjoyed the detailed descriptions and character development. A few felt the story, although well written, slowed down in the middle and some aspects were predictable
We spent time describing and interpreting the ending and agreed that the snow child could be anything you wanted her to be. Is she magical or flesh and blood? The author leaves it for the reader to decide. Some of us wanted logical explanations for events and confirmation of what was real and what wasn’t. It was agreed that Mabel came to terms with the loss of her own baby through Faina and her child becoming such a part of their lives. As Mabel’s sister asked “Are we not allowed to invent our own endings and choose joy over sorrow? “
Related to the theme of a snow child, one of our group, a professional cook, gave us the recipe for a perfect snowman, based on a university experiment.
Recipe for a perfect snowman.
You will need 3 perfect spheres of good quality snow:
Base 80cm, Middle 50cm, Head 30cm.
This golden ratio ensures stability as well as a strong base to support the structure. Spheres also melt more slowly increasing the life of your snow person.
At this time of year, the book group also nominates our favourite book of the past year. This year our responses were mixed and there was no clear favourite. However, the top four with two votes each were:
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elie Shafak.
Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The book to be reviewed in January is Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers. This book has been Longlisted for the Woman’s Prize for fiction 2021 and has been Book of the Year for The Times, Daily Telegraph and other newspapers and magazines.
It’s 1957, in the suburbs of Southeast London Jean Swinney is a journalist on a local paper, trapped in a life of duty and disappointment from which there is no likelihood of escape. When a young woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud. As the investigation turns her quiet life inside out, Jean is suddenly given an unexpected chance at friendship, love and – possibly – happiness. But there will, inevitably, be a price to pay.
Minutes of the Mclean Hall Committee Meeting, Thursday 25th November 2021
1. Rosalind Grant welcomed all to the meeting.
Present: Rosalind Grant (Chairperson), Karen Bennet (Treasurer), Elaine Melrose (Secretary), Tom Alexander (Trustee), Nicholas Grant, Jo Miller and Linda Milne.
2.Apologies: George Mitchell.
3.Minutes: The Minutes from the Business meeting at the AGM on 23rd August, which had been circulated, were approved.
4. Matters Arising:
4.1 Events in the Hall
Karen reported that bookings were recovering. This week there had been Bowls, Tai Chi, the Masons and the Hall Committee meeting. The Book Group meets in person monthly. Each group seemed to have developed their stance as regards to Covid security arrangements.
Ros intimated that there was a new group wishing to rent the Hall on a weekly basis. The Yogaclass, which had been held previously in the Big Shed, was seeking a more central location on a bus route. The group was likely to consist of 8 people plus Emma Burtles, the teacher. Ros herself is a member of the group as is Angela. Some other members of the committee expressed an interest. The Big Shed stores equipment which could be lent out to the Yoga Class. However, it was thought prudent in the current situation with Covid to suggest that people should provide and bring their own mats. The Yoga Class would like to meet on a Friday morning from 10.15 – 11.30 am. Karen raised the fact Friday was previously the slot for the Table Tennis Group. Elaine confirmed that it was unlikely that this class would recommence in the near future.
All being well, the first Yoga Class will take place on Friday 7th January 2022.
Jo intimated that the Art Club was no longer active, although members met for coffee instead of art. She hoped to canvass people in the Spring in the hope that the club might reform. Karen suggested some taster sessions which would be free of charge for the Art Club.
Jo also proposed a Fringe Event in the Hall during Fortingall Art Exhibition. She was aware that Fortingall Art was oversubscribed with too many artists wishing to display their work. She had some ideas and thought that this type of event could raise money for the Hall, as it had done previously when there was an Art Exhibition/Craft Exhibition in the Hall.
The committee thought that this idea was worth exploring. Jo will arrange with Cindy Brooks from Fortingall Art to liaise with Karen.
4.2 Entrance Area Refurbishment
Steve Bennett has tidied up the outside area. Karen has still to liaise with Colin Menzies regarding an update on his previous estimate, given the changes being considered. The paving used in the refurbishment requires to be non-slip. Jenny Penfold had approached Karen regarding the possibility of a Recycling Area being created outside the Hall at the Bin area. To effect this, the Bin area would require to be a covered area for shelter with appropriate containers for the recycling items. Jenny expressed willingness to assist with the arrangements. Karen has already obtained a grant of £3500 towards the refurbishment but felt confident that she could attract further funding since recycling is very topical at present.
4.3 Thrift Shop
There was discussion about the feasibility of working in the Thrift Shop in 2022. Karen had entered the draw for Thrift Shop slots but recognised that we could cancel should that be the preference at the time. Rosalind commented on a Thrift shop shift that she had done this year with regard to Covid security and Elaine offered to enquire of a friend who has visited the Thrift Shop regularly since it opened this year.
5. Financial Update
At the end of October, there was £44,313.18 in the account, of which £36,000 is earmarked for the roof repairs. Karen pointed out that the electricity provider for the Hall, Bulb, had been placed in Special Administration. The Hall pays £63 per month and had built up a surplus which would be a winter buffer. However, the tariff is a business tariff which has gone up significantly. Karen had been trying the reduce unnecessary electricity use.
6. Update on Progress with Roof Repairs
Karen reported that the leak has been fixed. The buckets have been removed from the roof space and the hatch in the kitchen has now been closed. This should reduce heat loss. Karen produced a sample of the tape material used to tape the seams and the bolts. A coating was applied after the taping but, due to heavy rain, some of the coating flaked off. Skyform, the company doing the work, came to inspect the problem and decided to reapply the coating. Unfortunately, this coating proved to be a slightly different shade which made the overall look patchy. Skyform contacted Polyroof, the company supplying the product. The Polyroof representative came to inspect the site and decided that it would be better to recoat the whole roof for a more even finish. There is no timescale for this work and the guttering still has to be finished. If this is still weather dependent there are issues about the work being completed at this time of year. Karen intended to wait for 2 weeks and then contact Skyform about removing the scaffolding meantime.
She intended to withhold monies should the job not be finished and would not pay until the 15-year guarantee was provided.
Rosalind proposed a vote of thanks for all the work that Karen has done regarding the roof repairs, grant applications and finance.
7. Covid Secure Arrangements for the Hall
The chairperson intimated that the Hall committee had received communications from the Scottish Community Development Centre and Public Health Scotland, reiterating what we know about the arrangements to prevent the spread of Covid-19. She indicated that, although the leader of each group is required to take responsibility for Covid-19 arrangements in their own group, it was useful to have a reminder notice at various points in the Hall summarising the guidance.
Hall ventilation was discussed – several of the windows have been left on the latch and can be easily opened, if needed.
8. Publishing of Minutes on the Noticeboard and FVA Blog
There have been no adverse comments received. Elaine raised whether this should apply to all committee meetings as well as to the public meetings. Committee members agreed that there were no issues with publishing Committee Minutes.
9. Any other Business
There was none raised.
10. Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting will take place at the end of March/beginning of April and the date will be announced nearer the time.
And Finally ………………
You always know Christmas is on its way when Doug makes a seasonal sand sculpture, and here it is!
This is a shorter blog than usual, with only two items. The main reason for putting it out now is to make sure that everyone has the right information about claiming compensation following the loss of electricity supplies in Fearnan during Storm Arwen.
The Ofgem site states that consumers can claim £70 after 48 hours without electricity and a further £70 for each additional 12 hour period, up to a maximum of £700.
Nothing deters the bibliophiles in the Fearnan Book Club, and despite the storm, the lack of electricity, and generally unfavourable reading conditions, we have another book club review.
The book reviewed in November was Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart which was a great book club choice for stimulating lively discussion and exploring differing opinions. This is a story with multiple themes of poverty, abuse, addiction and revolves around the relationship between Agnes and her son, Shuggie.
It received very polarised responses from our group but general acknowledgement that it was an amazing book for a first novel. It was beautifully written, evocative, with vivid descriptions that indicated that, although not autobiographical, the author had lived these experiences.
Some found it a difficult read – too raw and depressing – and didn’t finish the book. Others liked the dark humour and became involved with the characters. They admired Shuggie’s resilience, loyalty and love for his alcoholic mother and were glad they had read it. All agreed that he had a lot to cope with, not only his life with an alcoholic mother and absent father but also being gay in a mining community in the 1980s. It provided a social commentary on life and deprivation in that part of Scotland at that time, which was sadly well portrayed. One described it as a book that would stay with her.
Shuggie’s mum, Agnes, was full of contradictions. She was an outsider in her community who always tried to put on her best face in public and at one point had the strength to give up alcohol. Sadly, this was short lived and with it her opportunity to find happiness and stability also disappeared. Some felt angry with Agnes who had been brought up well but was self-destructive and made the wrong choices in life. We admired characters who showed her kindness and recognised the strength in her two older children, who left to make better lives for themselves.
Others felt it was more complex than that, with many factors resulting in her situation. We all brought our own personal experiences into our interpretation of the novel either from a personal or professional viewpoint. Whilst not being an easy or perhaps enjoyable read, this book was certainly powerful and thought provoking. A book, that once read, is not easily forgotten.
For our December review, something completely different!
Our book is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. This was her first novel and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and an international bestseller.
This story is set in the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920’s where a couple are living a tough life as homesteaders. Then when they are in their 50’s, a child unexpectedly comes into their life.
It is based on a Russian fairy tale and explores many issues which will be discussed at our next session.