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Andrew Law "Mishmash Bookshop" (London)

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Australia Blues: A Scot at the Ashes
Australia Blues: A Scot at the Ashes
by Stuart Croll
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cultural comedy tour with the Barmy Army., 31 Jan. 2013
What a gem of a book. I myself am a Scottish cricket fan, and in fact live near The [Kennington/Fosters/Aviva/whatever] Oval, and so I did wonder if I might have seen the author, who is perhaps writing under a nom de plume.

The tale starts predictably enough like many of these tales do, with a drunken bet made in a pub, that Croll can survive six weeks following the Barmy army on the Ashes tour of Australia, and that kind of sets the timbre of his writing throughout, he writes like a very entertaining pub raconteur, drawing you in and cajoling you towards the end of any particular chapter, where the climax is not usually a crescendo, but some kind of frustration at cricket fans touring life.

If it's a gem, then there are several facets to the cutting of the stone; there's the cricket, obviously, there's the travelogue writing about Australian cities [although this does by its nature concentrate on cricket loving towns, there's no Alice Springs or Uluru Ayers Rock] there's the chummy expose of what it's like to travel with the Barmy Army, and there's Croll interior psychology trying to deal with his sense of betrayal at being a scot supporting England in a country where there are more virulent scots than he's ever met.

And it really works. The book moves if not seamlessly then cyclically round these topics, the cricketing talk is accessible enough for the travel readers, the Scottish cultural humour is broad enough to connect with anyone who has a regional bigotry in their heart, and the travelogue writing, while not making me want to jump on the next plane, left me feeling that my Australian chums here in London are not as alien as I had previously thought, believing them to have grown up in a wooden shed with an outside dunny, in the mood of the Bradman legend.

It's not perfect though; Croll and Alexander have successfully avoided the team writing sin of making it obvious who wrote what, the voice in this book is charmingly constant, although I did find it drifting from contemporary scots to Clive James, but that's just how I react to Australian stuff. They've clearly self-published this, and that means they haven't had access to what you get from a proper outfit; a fearless editor to cut some of the connective tissue, and desist Croll from a slight habit of repeating jokes. For a travel book, it should be printed on lighter paper. And the jacket is just horrible. But these are minor concerns in the days of Kindle and ipad, and don't at all impinge on the underlying hilarity of Croll and Alexander's cack-handed wing and several prayers jaunt around a world that in several senses, isn't theirs.

The Munros: Scotland's Highest Mountains: 2014
The Munros: Scotland's Highest Mountains: 2014
by Cameron McNeish
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.78

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic, 10 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
i bought this as a gift for someone who loves the highlands, and ejoys the outdoor life there, but being in london as we are, finds it increasingly hard to escape there. She loved it, the combination of Cameron Mc Nieshes descriptions and routes, and Colin Baxtwers photography make it a successful middle ground purchase and gift inbetween coffe table book, and climbing handbook.

The Guide to Mysterious Perthshire (Haunted Britain S.)
The Guide to Mysterious Perthshire (Haunted Britain S.)
by Geoff Holder
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious Perthshire, 30 Jan. 2007
I grew up in rural Perthshire and loved the mysterious stories of hermits, dragons, fairies washing their feet in ponds, and lone headless horsemen that went with the landscape popularly known as the gateway to the highlands. A spectacular view at the end of a mornings hiking was always, it seemed to me, so much more enjoyable when accompanied by the legend of the local witch cursing the mean spirited excise man.

A complete encyclopaedic overview of all the local tales has been long overdue, and Mr Holder has done very well in producing this for us. After a fairly brief but useful introduction, wherein, the author sets out the terms and topics he will be concerned with, the book is broken down into chapters each covering a smaller geographical area of Perthshire. The great advantage of this is that if you are off on a walk around Blairgowrie, you need only read the chapter on Strathmore.

The two great legends of Scots history based in Perthshire are Macbeth, and The Stone of Destiny; and while he admits that each of them would fill a book itself, he deals with the main versions of each legend in an even handed manner. In this sense the books serves as a taster, and if the reader goes to the superb bibliography at the back there are citations for further reading.

But the real benefit of Holders book is the amount of small, local detail under each of the headings, occasionally with an odd word from the author to let you know he hasn't suspended his disbelief too far. So if you are out on a walk, and see something Celtic carved on a standing stone, you can bet he has a short explanation of both the stone, and the later carved motif.

There are dozens of monochrome photographs throughout, and the book might have benefited from a few in colour, but this would no doubt have added disproportionately to the cost.

I would recommend you get yourself a copy of this if you have any interest in the history of Perthshire, or are a regular hiker are cyclist around its lochs; it's not a travel guide, but is an excellent supplementary volume if folklore and the supernatural are your area of interest.

Drew Mishmash

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