Tag Archives: Allan Burnett

A Birlinn rendezvous

There is a certain freedom – not to mention a sense of adventure – in standing at a railway station as a train comes in, and you’ve got a trainload of alighting passengers to choose from. Who to go and ‘have coffee’ with. Well, to be truthful, I had already googled Sally from Birlinn, so I had an idea of who to look out for, and she knew to find a short, fat witch. And she did.

Sally was coming all the way to me, to talk about the many good children’s books Birlinn – who are an Edinburgh based publisher – are about to let loose on the world this year. I walked her to the Burgh Coffee House, as she confessed to earlier youthful trips to the Rainbow Slides in Stirling. What’s more, she came here from Linlithgow, and the less said about this lovely place and me, the better. (Actually, Sally has more or less sold me on the town, now. It has a good bookshop just by the station, apparently, so as long as I manage to get off the train in the first place…)

Joan Lennon, Silver Skin and Joe Friedman, The Secret Dog

So, Birlinn. Sally brought me books by Joan Lennon and Joe Friedman, which both look promising. She talked me through their whole 2015 catalogue, and plans include a Peter Pan graphic novel, books by Alexander McCall Smith about the young Precious Ramotswe, history by Allan Burnett, the Polish bear Wojtek, Lynne Rickards and the ever orange Tobermory Cat by Debi Gliori. There will be poetry and there will be naughty young lambs.

The books all have some connection to Scotland, be it setting or author or anything else. I knew it already, really, but it’s worth saying again, that Scotland has books all its own. It’s not just an appendix to England. If Norway can have a publishing industry, then so can Scotland.

There was a bit of gossip, too, and a secret that can’t be mentioned. And after that Sally ran for her train back to the big city, hoping that someone else would have done all the work by the time she got back to the office.

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The Story of Scotland

Looking through Allan Burnett’s The Story of Scotland, I was struck by the thought that I’m not very good at history. Yes, I can read about it, and yes, I can enjoy it. But I will neither remember it later, nor have the skill to tie various historical happenings together to see a pattern.

Allan (who according to the press release lives in Sweden…) has been inspired by The Great Tapestry of Scotland, and this book is based on photos of individual tapestry panels, starting with volcanoes in Dumfries a very long time ago, and people living in teepee-like tents, working his way through all the well-known historical points until he gets to James Bond and the referendum for Scottish Independence.

Allan Burnett, The Story of Scotland

The panels are rather beautiful, and the history is as I remember it, which I do when I read about it yet again. It could serve as a shortcut to the birth of Scotland, and I reckon I might use the book to look things up.

But most of all I want to see this tapestry. If you look through the list of people involved, unless I’m very much mistaken, someone like Eleanor Updale has helped, as have countless others. This is really very interesting. As with so many things, I had no idea.

For me the dates to remember are 31st January to 8th March next year, when the tapestry can be seen at Stirling Castle. For anyone who likes embroidery, it appears you can buy kits to do your own little bit of Scottish history.

Stitch away!