A unicorn is a legendary animal with a large, spiraling horn protruding from its forehead. In folklore, it is always white but can look like a horse or a goat. This wild, woodland creature was a symbol of purity and grace and could only be captured by a virgin.
A mercat cross is the market cross which be found in many Scottish towns, cities and villages. The cross is a symbol of the right to hold a regular market or fair which was granted by the monarch, a bishop or a baron. It indicated a burgh’s relative prosperity and marked the settlement’s focal point. In many cases, these crosses are topped with the Royal Unicorn.
There are more crosses with the Royal Unicorn, but these are a few.
Aberdeen Mercat Cross:
Edinburgh Mercat Cross:
Glasgow Mercat Cross:
And to end my post, here are the Irish Rovers to sing you out…
The idea of driving into Aberdeen didn’t thrill me even though I’ve done it on previous trips but not all the way into the heart of the city. It probably wasn’t so much the idea of driving as it was the idea of finding a place to leave the car relatively close to the library for the entire day without having to run back periodically and pay to stay longer.
Even before we left Canada, we had pretty much decided on driving from Earlsfield Farm to Insch and catching the train there.
The station isn’t manned but there was a self-serve kiosk outside where you could purchase your tickets (in 2000 we bought our tickets on the train) so we did then hung out on the platform while we waited for the Inverness to Aberdeen train to arrive.
If you look really closely at the mountain in the background, you can see the tip of the hillfort just poking up.
The train arrived a few minutes before its scheduled departure time to allow folks already on the train to get off and those of us waiting time to board and get settled. It appeared that seats were at a premium because the majority in the carriage we were on had reserved tags inserted in the slot in the top of the seat back. We found a couple of empty seats reserved for stations the train had already passed through and took them. Who would book passage on a specific train then not turn up at the station? I know I certainly wouldn’t.
We passed by Aberdeen airport and as we did, a helicopter was landing. Seeing that sparked me to look for Bond’s headquarters (used in another manuscript in progress) as I had Google street-viewed them before. Knowing roughly where they were located and the colour of their building made it easier and I spotted it almost immediately.
The Central Library was a short walk up from the train station so we made our way there. I wanted to soak in some Aberdeen atmosphere and didn’t want to cart books about with us. I had already made arrangements to drop them off on our arrival.
On our way to the library, we saw this street sign and I just had to take a picture of it. It would have been better with hubby in the picture, too, but this will have to do… for now. Besides with the steps and the railings, I’m not sure how well I could have framed the entire shot with him in it.
After relieving ourselves of the bag of books and using the facilities, we went on a short tour of Aberdeen – across Rosemount Viaduct, which changes names to Schoolhill (where it passes over Denburn Road, and latterly Upperkirkgate. Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate were streets I mentioned in previous drafts of my novel. Then it was down Broad Street in front of the magnificent Marischal College building (now home to the Aberdeen City Council). Even on the opposite side of the street, the building was so massive I couldn’t get all of it into the frame at once, not to mention we were on a bit of a time constraint to see the things I wanted to and photograph them and get back to the library on time to go on our lunch date.
From Broad Street, we continued on Queen Street past the Grampian Police Headquarters then Shoe Lane where we reached King Street and turned right heading for the top of Union Street and the Castlegate.
Aberdeen in the sunshine is a truly, beautiful place. The granite buildings sparkle. After this brief photo session, we quickly returned to the library via Union Street and Union Terrace, alongside the Union Terrace Gardens.
We were a bit late getting back to the library, but not everyone who was going out to lunch was available. Once everyone was gathered by the main desk, we set out to this as yet undisclosed location. I remember we walked up Skene Terrace then kept going at the end of the street. I’m pretty sure we ended up on Huntly Street at Mi Amore (confirm with library staff) a lovely Italian, Mediterranean restaurant.
When we returned, I was given a tour of the local studies department which was the area that helped me so much with my research and will also play a role in the sequel to A Shadow in the Past.
My friend, 2009 Dundee International Book Prize winner, Chris Longmuir, came up from her seaside town by train to be there for me. We had a wee natter and I signed the copy of my book that she had bought from amazon.co.uk earlier in the year.
Another of my online writer friends, Bill Kirton popped in, too. It was brilliant to finally meet him in person. We chatted briefly before it was “show time”!
Only ten people had pre-registered for the event with the library so I was well chuffed to see more like twenty people filling the seats. I chose what I hoped was an enticing segment from early in A Shadow in the Past and began.
When I was finished my reading, I fielded questions and answers related to A Shadow in the Past and my friends, Chris and Bill, encouraged me to write a book on Home Children – possibly from the child’s point-of-view.
As if I hadn’t already been treated like royalty by the library staff, they presented me with a tote bag filled with books from their Local Studies Department and two Waterstones giftcards.
It was an amazing day. Everyone in attendance enjoyed by presentation but best of all, I sold and signed three copies of A Shadow in the Past.
When it was finally time to leave, Bill walked with us as far as Union Street where we said our goodbyes. Chris accompanied us as far as the train station where we parted company when she discovered there was a train home that she might be able to make.
Our train left shortly after Chris’s so we headed towards the platform and waited. It felt good to finally relax on the train and recall the day’s events. At the Insch station, we doddled about waiting for the car park to clear before we got in and headed for ‘home’ with a detour up to Huntly for a bite of supper (not that we needed it) so we grabbed a couple of sarnies and packets of crisps from the ASDA and a bottle of wine to replace the one mine hostess at Earlsfield cracked open when we arrived.
Later that evening, the guys cracked open mine host’s bottle of 18 year old Aberlour (after having our 18 year old Glenlivet the night before) and I carried on with wine. More than once, we toasted a successful day.
And before I forget… wait, I did forget… my bad. Anyway, better late than never, let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
Since, I don’t have a cover I’ll share images of my main characters, Blair Martin and Niamh MacIsaac instead.
Working on an oil-rig in the North Sea can be dangerous but sometimes the commute can be deadly.
Niamh MacIsaac dreads saying goodbye to her partner, Blair Martin, every time he leaves for his job on an off-shore oil platform. Her worst fears become reality when the helicopter he’s a passenger on ditches into the North Sea. While waiting and hoping for news of survivors, a severe storm blows up and the search is stood down. Will they be reunited and have a second chance at happiness, or will the North Sea claim yet another victim?
Niamh opened her eyes, looked at the sleeping baby in the small bassinet beside her bed in Aberdeen Maternity Hospital and smiled. She turned her head away to look around the rest of the room. When she’d been brought up after the emergency C-section, it was the middle of the night and the hospital room completely dark. At least, that’s how she remembered it. Exhaustion and drugs for the post-op pain clouded her memory.
“Blair? Is that you?” she groggily asked the figure sleeping in the chair on the other side of the bed.
“Huh?” Blair woke with a start.
“How long have you been there?” she asked, stretching her arm out to touch him.
“Since they brought you up from surgery.”
“Oh,” she replied flatly. “And Mum?”
“Don’t know. She left to make a few calls and that’s the last I saw her. Figure she went home. I know she wasn’t best pleased to see me turn up.”
“I’m glad you did. With the way things ended after that awful row we had, I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”
“I stormed around for a few days then did something I didn’t think I’d ever do. I drove down to Barnsley,” Blair answered.
“You heard me. I drove to Barnsley. Never would have done it if it wasn’t for you.”
“And?” Niamh shifted position, her interest piqued by his revelation.
“The pit’s gone. Shopping complex there now. The old house is still there. Looks as rundown now as it did then.”
“That’s not quite what I meant. What about your father? Did you see him?”
“No. He’s dead. It was the drink.”
Niamh didn’t know what to say. She knew Blair hated the man for the hell he’d put both him and his mother through. She remained quiet for a few minutes then asked, “Did you go to the cemetery to see your mother?”
“Yes. Took flowers. The bastard’s buried there with her. He should rot in hell for all eternity for what he put us through,” he said as he lowered his head.
“How do you know he’s buried with her?”
“Because it’s on the fucking headstone! I don’t know who arranged it but I’d like to…”
“Beat the stuffing out of them, like your father did to you and your mother.”
Blair sat in silence for a moment. He stood and stretched before quickly changing the subject. “That chair is bloody uncomfortable.”
“You didn’t have to stay all night. You could have gone home.”
“I know but I wanted to.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead.
“Why don’t you go home and get some sleep? You look shattered.”
“In a bit. I’m going on a quest for coffee right now. You want anything?”
“Not sure if can. I’ll be fine. You go.”
He leaned down to kiss her forehead again but this time Niamh moved her head so he kissed her squarely on the lips. “Won’t be long,” he said before leaving.
Niamh watched his muscular figure walk away from her. His tight jeans and white T-shirt made him look absolutely delicious. And that was what got her in trouble from the beginning. From the first day she kissed him while his girlfriend, Sarah, who was also her best friend was away at University, she wanted him. Didn’t love him but wanted him. She had been physically attracted to Blair for as long as she could remember but kept those feelings to herself since he was her best friend’s bloke – until that first kiss and from that point on, couldn’t help herself. Even now, she didn’t know her feelings for him. The sex had been fantastic but was that because Blair was the forbidden fruit? Once everything came out in the open and they had been caught by Sarah, things had changed. The intensity was no longer there. Blair seemed distant, especially after Niamh dropped her pregnancy bomb on him.
I’ve been rather quiet here at Celtic Connexions since posting about going to my first live curling event.
If you follow the Goodreads widgets on my sidebar, you’ll see I’ve spent a lot of time in this young year with my face stuck in books. Crime fiction, short stories, YA, and true crime. And I’ve currently got my face stuck in another book of crime fiction.
Yeah, I know, if I’m doing all this reading, I’m not getting any writing done. You’re right, but in order to be a good writer, one has to read and read lots.
The crime fiction I’ve read and am reading could almost be classed as research. I can see you shaking your heads and wondering if I’ve gone completely doolally. Well, peeps, I haven’t. You see, the authors of this genre I’ve been reading are both Scottish authors – Ian Rankin and Stuart MacBride.
While reading about places in Scotland isn’t quite the same as being there, I have been to Edinburgh where Ian sets his novels
and Aberdeen, the home of Stuart’s. Reading their books brings the sights, sounds and smells back to me. And I’ve discovered a few things along the way that I didn’t know before. See why I say my reading could almost be classed as research?
What will the next book on my TBR pile to move onto my currently reading list? Any suggestions?
What authors/genres do you like to read? Leave a comment and tell me.
My Scottish roots and writing by Melanie Robertson-King