Elise McCune

Elise McCune is an Australian, Melbourne-based writer.

Elise McCune (33)Welcome to my website where you can see images of the places which inspire me and learn more about my stories.

Born in New South Wales, Australia, I moved to Perth, Western Australia where I raised my two children. I worked for ten years in the Western Australian Museum and during this time I travelled to Egypt and stayed in Cairo and Alexandria for an extended visit. I loved Egypt and its people and culture and my knowledge of these cities and the desert will inform the narrative of my work-in-progress.

I have a fascination for the beautiful landscapes of Australia which I weave through my stories. A sense of place is important to me and I like to explore how characters are shaped by unfamiliar places. I enjoy writing dual narrative stories set in two time periods: the past and the present and I also explore the theme of how the past impacts on the present.

Allen & Unwin Australia published my novel Castle of Dreams in April 2016.unknown

A poignant, luminous novel about two sisters, about a mother and daughter, a loved granddaughter, the past that separates them and the healing that comes with forgiveness.

At the 2016 London Bookfair Allen & Unwin sold the rights to Castle of Dreams to Norwegian publisher Cappelen Damm. They will publish Castle of Dreams in translation in April 2017.

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I am currently writing my second novel. One narrative thread is set in southwestern Australia and the other in the lovely Tumut Valley in New South Wales, Australia.

Book Club discussion questions are on this blog at the Castle of Dreams page.

You can buy a copy of Castle of Dreams here:

https://www.amazon.com.au/Castle-Dreams-Elise-McCune-ebook/dp/B01ASQ8X22

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/castle-of-dreams-2

http://www.booktopia.com.au/castle…/prod9781760291846.html

https://www.bookdepository.com/Castle-Dreams-Elise-McCune/9781760291846

Contact details:

https://www.goodreads.com/EliseMcCune

http://www.elisemccune.com

Email: elisemccune1@gmail.com

And please visit my Facebook author page for updates and to chat with me.

https:///www.facebook.com/elisemccuneauthorpage

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Elise McCune

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The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth is the HNSA Patron at the  HNSA Conference Melbourne
8th -10th September 2017.

 Visit our speaker’s page www.hnsa.org.au/speakers for more information.

SUBSCRIBE to our newsletter to hear when early bird registration opens http://eepurl.com/bgWm49 And 

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the award-winning & internationally bestselling author of more than 20 books for both adults and children.

Beauty in Thorns, the extraordinary love story behind the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones’s famous painting of ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Other novels include The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of ‘Beauty & the Beast’ set in the underground resistance to Hitler in Nazi Germany; The Wild Girl, the story of the forbidden romance behind the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales; and Bitter Greens, a retelling of ‘Rapunzel’ which won the 2015 American Library Association Award for Best Historical Fiction. Named one of Australia’s Favourite 15 Novelists, Kate has a doctorate in fairy tale studies and is an accredited master storyteller.

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The Wild Girl  by Kate Forsyth is storytelling at its best. I enjoyed the richness of the words, the characters who were brought to life and the story which is about love and overcoming adversity. It is a blending of historical fact and fiction. Kate Forsyth has researched the events in the novel and in the afterword the author writes that she listened to the story within the stories that Gretchen told. This helped to plausibly fill in the blanks in Gretchen’s life.

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From the back cover:
Dortchen Wild is drawn to the boy next door, young and handsome fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm. They live in the German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in the early nineteenth century in a time of war. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Living under French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save the old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.
Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories and as she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen’s father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream.
Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales.

As a lover of history The Wild Girl had me turning the pages. I enjoyed the historical facts of Napoleon’s advance, then retreat, through Europe. I have an interest in plants and flowers and found the glimpse into how flowers and herbs were used at the time, as both medicines and to help people achieve their desires, added to the richness of the story.

The abuse that Dortchen suffers at the hands of her father, one of the people in her life who should protect her, was handled well, although one particularly harrowing scene was not to my liking. I can, however, see the need for this scene as it explains future happenings in the plot.

Excerpt from the first page:
‘Snow lay thick on the ground. The lake’s edges were slurred with ice. The only colour was the red rosehips in the briar hedge, and the golden windows of the palace. Violin music lilted into the air, and shadows twirled past the glass panes.’

In The Wild Girl Kate Forysth enchants with her descriptive powers, engages the reader with the story, and most of all Gretchen and Wilhem are vividly brought to life.

Elise

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Castle of Dreams

Photos I used as inspiration in writing the historical narrative in Castle of Dreams.

Robert Shine and Vivien Blake                    Vivien typing a letter


Rose Blake


Paronella Park aka Castillo de Suenos 


Jacaranda trees in Brisbane

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I was wondering how I could weave the Pacific War through my story when I discovered by a serindipitious happening that Australian and American Service personnel visited the castle for rest and recreation during the war years. They came out to the Saturday night dances, went canoeing on the lake with their Cairns and Innisfail girlfriends.

Castle of Dreams will be published in Norwegian in April 2017 and re-printed in Australia in June 2017. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it!

Elise

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The Storyteller

‘Storyteller Under Sunny Skies,’ a clay sculpture by Rose Pecos-Sun Rhodes (Jemez Pueblo), 1993, in the permanent collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

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Early storytelling most likely originated in simple chants. People sang chants as they worked at grinding corn or sharpening tools. Our early ancestors created myths to explain natural occurrences. They assigned superhuman qualities to ordinary people, thus originating the hero tale.

Journeying from land to land, storytellers would learn various regions’s stories while also gathering news to bring back with them. Through exchanging stories with other storytellers, stories changed, making it difficult to trace the origins of many stories.

I write time-slip novels with one narrative set in the past. I hope I create stories that engage the reader and my plot  has them turning the pages. The wonderful thing about being a storyteller is being able to bring characters to life so that when a reader finishes your novel the characters live on in their imagination. Research for historical fiction can be overwhelming. If an author wants to convince a reader there is no room for error although on saying that I’ve read the most wonderful and well researched books that have included an incorrect historical detail and it has not detracted from the story. Someone once told me about carpet weavers in India who always make sure to leave a flaw in a finished carpet to show only God is perfect. Research is a long piece of string but on the whole it’s crucial historical details are correct so we can bring the dusty, cobwebbed world of the past to life.

When I write I like to focus on the beauty of the writing and intricate issues. A story that provides a means to better understand the world. A story driven by my characters and one that keeps my readers turning the page.

But the most important thing to remember is that authors are storytellers and must enchant the reader which is easier to do in some stories than others.

One of my favourite books is Speak, Memory an autobiographical memoir by writer Vladimir Nabokov. It’s been on my shelf since my teenage self found it in a Sydney  bookstore and it’s a book I reread.

Vladimir Nabokov writes:

‘There are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: he may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer combines these three — storyteller, teacher, enchanter — but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer…The three facets of the great writer — magic, story, lesson — are prone to blend in one impression of unified and unique radiance, since the magic of art may be present in the very bones of the story, in the very marrow of thought…Then with a pleasure which is both sensual and intellectual we shall watch the artist build his castle of cards and watch the castle of cards become a castle of beautiful steel and glass.’

Excerpt: Paris Review No. 40

‘There is no doubt that Nabokov feels as a tragic loss the conspiracy of history that deprived him of his native Russia, and that brought him in middle life to doing his life’s work in a language that is not that of his first dreams.’

Enchantment is such a lovely word, the sound of it, the meaning it brings to mind.

Oxford Dictionary of English:

Enchantment

1 a feeling of great pleasure; delight: the enchantment of the mountains.
2 the state of being under a spell; magic: a world of mystery and enchantment.

I hope the new novel I’m working on tells a story that is full of enchantment and mystery and that my readers want to keep turning the pages.  And because it has a magical garden at the heart of the story I thought I’d give you a glimpse of the garden that inspired me.

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Have a wonderful day, dreaming, writing and reading and most of all I hope it is full of enchantment.

Elise

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Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar

I read Salt Creek last year and on rereading it I enjoyed it as much as the first time. It was my favourite book in 2016.

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Salt Creek, 1855, is situated at the far reaches of the remote, beautiful and inhospitable coastal region, the Coorong, in the new province of South Australia. Stanton Finch has moved his large family there after his business failed in Adelaide. Fifteen-year-old Hester and her siblings enjoy the company of the few travellers that pass along the nearby stock-route. There is young artist, Charles and the Ngarrindjeri people who they have dispossessed. An Aboriginal boy, Tully, is their friend and over the passing years becomes part of the family.Stanton Finch hopes to restore the family fortunes and the family’s good name. But his ideas fail, leaving him deeper in debt.
Caring for the family falls to young Hester Finch when her mother descends into melancholia and spends time in her bedroom staring into space.
Stanton Finch attempts to tame the harsh landscape bring ruin to the Ngarrindjeri people’s homes and livelihoods…

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The birdman’s wife by Melissa Ashley

The Birdman’s Wife by Australian author Melissa Ashley is a well written and researched book about artist Elizabeth Gould who was the wife of John Gould the famous Victorian ornithologist.

I came across Melissa Ashley’s book when it was one of the books of the month for BCbookclub, an online bookclub, that I belong to. I undid the string and brown wrapping paper that the book was wrapped in and without doubt the book had one of the most beautiful cover’s I’d ever seen. The endpages were just as lovely.

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From the inside cover:

Artist Elizabeth Gould spent her life capturing the sublime beauty of birds the world had never seen before. But her legacy was eclipsed by the fame of her husband, John Gould. The Birdman’s Wife at last gives voice to a passionate and adventurous spirit who was so much more than the woman behind the man.

Elizabeth was a woman ahead of her time, juggling the demands of her artistic life with her roles as wife, lover, helpmate, and mother to an evergrowing brood of children. In a golden age of discovery, her artistry breathed wondrous life into hundreds of exotic new species, including Charles Darwin’s famous Galapagos finches.

In The Birdman’s Wife, the naïve young girl who falls in love with a demanding and ambitious genius comes into her own as a woman, an artist and a bold adventurer who defies convention by embarking on a trailblazing expedition to collect and illustrate Australia’s ‘curious’ birdlife.

In this indelible portrait, an extraordinary woman overshadowed by history steps back into the light where she belongs.

Melissa Ashley: photo Vikki Lambert

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About the Author

Melissa Ashley is a writer, poet, birder and academic who tutors in poetry and creative writing at the University of Queensland. She has published a collection of poems, The Hospital for Dolls, short stories, essays and articles. What started out as research for a PhD dissertation on Elizabeth Gould became a labour of love and her first novel, The Birdman’s Wife. Inspired by her heroine, she studied taxidermy as a volunteer at the Queensland Museum. Melissa lives in Brisbane.

The story lived up to all my expectations and I would highly recommend this book.

This is the second book I have read for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, 2017.

The AWW challenge was set up to help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women. The challenge encourages avid readers and book bloggers, male and female, living in or outside Australia, to read and review books by Australian women throughout the year. You don’t have to be a writer to sign up. You can choose to read and review, or read only.

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Have good week, reading, writing (if you are an author) and dreaming.

Elise

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Edgar Alan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country’s earliest practitioners of the short story. Poe is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction.He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.

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This is the edition (not the same book) that I have on my shelf.

I have a copy of Poe’s Poetical Works. There is no date of publication, nonetheless I guess the volume to be over a hundred years old. It is ornate, decorated elaborately in gilt and maroon. The filigreed panel in the centre of the front cover reads Moxon’s Popular Poets, the series to which the book belongs. The edges are only slightly worn and the gilded page ends still have lustre and the beautiful Victorian binding makes it a fine example of an antique book.  Have you ever come across a book in an opportunity shop that you love? This is my favourite find, ever.

I am enthralled by the poems of Edgar Allan Poe because they sit well with my love of Gothic literature. My copy has illustrations that add to its beauty. While I admire the book for its beauty, and it is in  good condition, it’s the poet’s words that inhabit the book that made me want to bring it home.

Who, once they have read them, can ever forget Annabel Lee, The Raven, Lenore, A Dream within a Dream?

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Good reading, should it be Gothic or any other genre, enjoy!

Elise.

Ref. Introduction, Wiki

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Georgiana Molloy, the mind that shines by Bernice Barry

This is the first book read and my first review for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, 2017.

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Georgiana Molloy, the mind that shines, is a biography of one of Australia’s first female botanical collectors who to quote the biography: ‘Her life began where England and Scotland meet, near the wide mouth of the Solway Firth . . .’ I lived in the southwest of Western Australia for several years so I know the area where the biography is set and Bernice Barry brings it to life. Georgiana was self-taught and her specimens of indigenous flora from Augusta and Busselton are now held in some of the world’s leading herbarium collections.

It is a well-researched book and obviously a labour of love for the author who is a fine writer.

The book with its lovely cover, exquisite photos of wildflowers throughout, and other images that enhance the narrative is one to read and keep on your bookshelf forever. And the endnotes are a great source of further reading.

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Bernice Barry lives on WA’s southwest coast near the place where Georgiana Molloy arrived in 1830. Bernice has been researching the lives of Georgiana and John Molloy for more than a decade.

I loved this biography and I hope it ends up on every non-fiction and biography shortlist. And wins.

Good reading,

Cheers, Elise

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Persian Gardens: Meanings, Symbolism and Design.

It’s the first day of 2017.  It’s very quiet other than the birds singing an early morning song in the garden.

I am writing about gardens in my WIP so this morning I thought I’d write about Persian Gardens.

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Textures and shapes are important in the overall structual design in Persian Gardens so as to harness the light. Iran’s dry heat makes shade important where  trees and trellises feature as shade and pavilions and walls block the sun.

Persian Violets

Greenhouses, glasshouses

The Persian garden integrates indoors with outdoors through the connection of a  surrounding garden with an inner courtyard. And often architectural elements such as vaulted arches are added between the outer and interior areas to open up the divide between them.

Persian Garden Layout on Carpet

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Culture and identity in a society can be represented in the architecture and the meanings intertwined with it. In this sense, the architecture and design are the interface for transferring meaning and identity to the nation and future generations. Persian gardens have been evolved through the history of Persian Empire in regard to the culture and beliefs of the society. the patterns of design and architecture in Persian gardens and the meanings intertwined with their patterns and significant elements such as water and trees. Persian gardens are not only about geometries and shapes; but also manifest different design elements, each representing a specific symbol and its significance among the society. 

Garden has been defined as ‘the purest of human pleasures and the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man’ (Bacon 1883). According to Hunt, gardens are “concentrated or perfected forms of place-making’ (Hunt 2000). Garden is also perceived as a symbolic site, resulting from the human’s attempts to materialize Eden on the earth (Alon- Mozes 2004). In the Greek text of the Bible, a garden has been expressed as a “paradise”. In Hebrew “Eden” is translated to an unidentified region or country. In Persian literature, the word garden “pardis” derives from the word “paridaiza” which literally means “walled garden“ and it has been summed up as a luminous and perfumed place, populated by a number of angelical and beautiful creatures (Babaie 1997).

 A mystical feeling for flowers and a love of gardens are integral parts of ancient Persian gardens. The Persian garden is a manifestation of supreme values and concepts and is well-known as a bridge connecting the two worlds of matter and meaning.

The philosophical design concept of Persian gardens is believed to be rooted in the four sacred elements of water, wind, fire and soil. The geometrical design of Persian gardens has been reflected in Persian carpets, potteries and visual arts. The other distinctive feature of Persian gardens, which contributes to the introspective characteristics of ancient Persian people, is the wide application of thick brick walls, which surround the entire rectangular plan of the garden. Other traits of Persian gardens include: the application of perpendicular angles and straight lines, ponds and pools to supply the water and highlight the scenic landscape view, simultaneous use of evergreen and deciduous trees, planting of various types of plants and consideration of focal a pavilion known as Kooshk.

I’m so glad I discovered, serendipity definitely,  this very enlightening, well-written, and researched article. If you have an interest in the gardens it’s well worth reading.

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I like to weave a little magic through my stories. Writing a novel is rather like taking a magic carpet ride for who knows where you’ll end up? Most times lately it’s in a garden.

Goodwriting and all the best for 2017,

Cheers, Elise

Reference: Leila Mahmoudi Farahani, Bahareh Motamed and Elmira Jamei.

Deakin University, School of Architecture and Built Environment, 1 Gheringhap St, Geelong; 3220, Australia

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution on License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

ISSN 1865-1542 – http://www.landscapeonline.dehttp://dx.doi.org/10.3097/LO.201646

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Roses of the Ancient World

The Rose a publication by the Royal Horticultural Society with Classic Texts and Beautiful Rare Prints was a lovely Christmas gift to receive.  The Rose joins a growing number of books that I have on gardening and ancient myths.

I am writing about gardens and flowers and myths and the Ancient World in my WIP. The thread of the story grew from a visit by my daughter to Elizabeth’s Bookshop in Perth, Western Australia. She found pressed flowers between the pages of a book and suggested to me that it was a good premise for a novel. Some of her other suggestions have ended up in my dual narrative story (an artist’s sketchbook is one of them). My story is set in southwestern Australia and also in the Tumut Valley in New South Wales.

Pliny is the major source from antiquity, describing fourteen sorts of roses, while passages from Columella, Palladius and others yield supplementary information.

Rosa damascena or the damask rose is a descendent of Rosa gallica. This particular rose is popular for its fragrance and since its first appearance in 900 B.C., it has been an integral part of the history of roses. Some time around 50 B.C., the Romans were thrilled with a North African rose variety named Rosa damascena semperflorens, also known as the ‘Autumn Damask’, which flowered twice every year. The Romans were not aware of this attribute of the ‘Autumn Damask’ till then. This variety is thought to be a hybrid developed from Rosa gallica and Rosa moschata, also called the musk rose, and said to have its origin in the fifth century B.C.

Roses are also much loved in fairytales.

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Flora was the Roman Goddess of Spring

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The world of gardens is fascinating and in my WIP I am working on bringing an abandoned garden to life. Of course there are also family secrets, romance, and mysteries to be solved.

All the very best for a creative and happy 2017.

Cheers, Elise

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A Scottish Christmas

Christmas is a time for our families to come together. I am blessed with two wonderful children and three grandchildren. My son holds a special place in my heart and my daughter too. They are my best friends. My eldest grandson, is so tall now and runs in marathons, my middle grandson is reading the classics, and my grandaughter is a treasure. I love them all and my happiest times are spent with them.

Here in Australia Christmas Day is often a very hot day with traditional dinners becoming a thing of the past (although some would disagree with this custom) but it is no less special and my favourite time of the holidays is Christmas Eve when we exchange presents.

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Our family has Scottish ancestors so I thought I’d make my last post for 2016 a tribute to them.

Claire and Jamie from Outlander.

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Traditional Scottish Christmas

The Scots word “Yule” comes from the Old Norse “jól, which was a midwinter pagan celebration of the winter soltice. Traditionally, Yule refers not just to Christmas Day but the twelve days of the earlier festival. The Christian Church took over the celebration, but some of the traditions harked back to the pagan roots.

One of the most unusual facts about Scottish Christmas traditions is they haven’t been around very long. For nearly 400 years, the celebration of Christmas as we know it was banned in Scotland. It’s no wonder that the Scottish New Year’s festival, Hogmanay, is a days’ long party.

The Banning of “Christ’s Mass”

The people of the United Kingdom were oppressed by Oliver Cromwell in the mid-1600s. During a period known as the Reformation, Parliament issued the ban in 1647, and upheld it for nearly 15 years.

When Cromwell fell from grace, the ban was lifted in the most of the U.K., but not in Scotland. The Scottish Presbyterian Church continued to discourage Christmas holiday festivities, including formal Mass, and people suffered penalties if caught celebrating. This ban lasted for nearly 400 years.

Finally, in the late 1950s, Christmas and the U.K. tradition of Boxing Day became recognized holidays for the Scottish people.

Many Scots still burn a twig of the rowen tree at Christmas as a way to clear away bad feelings of jealousy or mistrust between family members, friends, or neighbors.

Once the ban on Christmas was lifted, the Scottish adapted many of the Christmas traditions used in England and the U.S. Today, the Scots celebrate with festive Christmas trees and presents for all. Great dinners include mounds of Scottish shortbread, mashed turnips, and roasted turkey or venison stew. In addition to Yule bread, families may also make a Black Bun, or Twelfth Night Cake. Similar to a fruitcake, it has thick pastry and is packed with spices, fruit, nuts…and more than a dash of whiskey!

‘Auld Lang Syne’ is the most famous Scottish holiday music.
Hogmanay: Four Days of Reverie

One thing that a traditional Scottish Christmas has with the rest of the UK is that normally at 3.00pm on the television is the recording of the Queen’s Speech.

Scotland has very short days at the end of December. It is dark until around 8.30 am and again about 3.30pm in the afternoon. The shortest day is the 22nd December. The weather is usually quite cold, but not as bitter as other countries and the lights and warmth of candles in windows and the merrily burning fires in the grates are a welcome sight.

There must be something wonderful about having the native Scots Pine as a traditional Scottish Christmas tree. That lovely fresh smell of the pine against the cosy warmth of the indoors must be delightful.

Nollaig chridheil agus bliadhna mhath ùr.

Have a Happy Christmas and all the very best for 2017.

Cheers Elise

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