This picture shows the effects of rotational heather burning on a moorland in the county of Angus. The purplish patches on the hillside are areas of heather that have been burned in different years. Burning heather gets rid of older plants and encourages new growth, and burning small areas in successive years creates a patchwork of plants of different heights. Moorlands like this one support a variety of wildlife, including several species of ground-nesting birds that prefer to nest in recently burned areas.
Two wild goats in the Queen Elizabeth forest park in Galloway, Scotland. Supposed to be kept on a strict grass-based diet, this ancient breed of long-haired beasts will happily relieve you of your sandwiches given half a chance.
Even by Agatha Christie’s extremely high standards, this novel contains a truly ingenious plot. By her own admission, the book took an enormous amount of planning, and it’s only in an epilogue that the brilliant solution to the problem is revealed.
The mystery begins when ten people from a variety of backgrounds are invited to Soldier Island. The island, which lies off the Devon coast, has recently been sold to an unknown buyer and there has been much discussion in the newspapers about who may have bought it.
Each of the ten invited to the island have been lured there on different pretexts, including a young woman who believes she has been engaged as a secretary, a doctor who has been sent no details about his invitation but has received a large fee for attending, and an elderly General who expects to be meeting up with old army chums.
A local boatman takes the guests to the island, where they find a married couple acting as butler and housekeeper. The butler and his wife are two of the ten who have come to the island at the request of the owner, a Mr Owen.
When word arrives that Mr Owen has been held up and will not be joining the party immediately, the guests begin to discuss who this mysterious man might be. None of them have met him or have any idea who he is. Even the butler and housekeeper are in the dark, having taken up their positions on the island just days before the guests arrived.
In each of the bedrooms there is a printed nursery rhyme about ten little soldier boys. The rhyme begins ‘Ten little soldier boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were Nine.’ As the verses go on, a soldier boy dies in each one, until the poem concludes with the words ‘And then there were none.’ In the dining room the guests notice ten small china soldier figures, which appear to represent the soldiers in the poem.
As the guests sit enjoying coffee after dinner on their first evening on the island, a disembodied voice suddenly fills the dining room. The voice details the names of each of the ten people staying in the house along with an accusation of murder committed on a certain date. The guests listen in astonishment as each of them is accused of a dreadful crime.
Not long after that, one of the guests chokes to death, and that night the housekeeper dies in her sleep. The butler is disturbed when he notices two of the little china figures have disappeared from the dining room. When the General is murdered by an unknown hand the following day and another china soldier disappears, it’s obvious that something decidedly sinister is going on. A search of the island reveals no possible hiding place for an eleventh person, and no sign of there being anyone else present.
The story carries on with rising tension as each of the original ten people meet their end by one means or another. When they are all dead the mystery remains: who killed them?
I quite often read Agatha Christie at bedtime, but I would recommend keeping this particular novel for daytime pleasure. From a reasonably innocuous beginning, a sense of menace increases as the book goes on. The tension builds once the killings start, and from then on there’s no let up until the culmination of the book.
There’s an author’s note at the beginning of the edition I have, taken from Agatha Christie’s autobiography, in which she explains that she wrote the story because it was so difficult to do that the idea fascinated her. ‘The murder of Roger Ackroyd’ is often hailed her most brilliant novel, and it is indeed a superb creation, but this one is a real class act and has one of the cleverest plots of any novel I’ve read.
A peaceful scene of contented cows grazing beneath a verdant hillside in Glen Lochay on a beautiful summer’s day. As I look out at the cold grey January weather today, I’m dreaming of countryside rambles under blue skies in warm sunshine.
This photo was taken on the Fife Coastal Path, looking north to the picturesque fishing village of Pittenweem on Scotland’s east coast. The red pantiled roofs are typical of many Fife villages, particularly along the coast. The tiles were originally brought in Belgian and Dutch ships as ballast during the 16th and 17th Centuries, and proved ideal roofing material for Scotland’s growing housing market. Most of the oldest houses in the village cluster round the curved West Shore shown in the picture, and some of them are available as holiday lets.
New Year’s Day is one of my favourite days of the year. I like the feeling of making a fresh start, leaving behind the old year and marching on into new territory.
Every January I enjoy reading fellow blogger Darlene’s end of year report and her resolutions for the coming year. It’s some years since I last posted my new year’s resolutions on a blog, and I think it’s time I did it again, in an attempt to hold myself more accountable.
Last year I was aiming to read 100 books, but I dropped that total to 90 when 100 seemed unlikely. As of last night I had read 89, but if I had known I was going to report my reading achievements online I might have made more of an effort to finish the one I’m currently reading (“A room with a view” by E M Forster, which I’m finding more of a slog than I thought I would).
My resolutions for 2018 are as follows:
1. Read 100 books, at least 35 of which are non-fiction, and at least one of which concerns Greek history/mythology.
2. Write (and post on this blog) at least 12 book reviews.
3. Visit the McManus Galleries in Dundee (a museum and art gallery I’ve been meaning to visit for years).
4. Finish writing the novel I started last month (over the past few years I’ve started several stories I thought might turn into novels, only to have them dwindle away to nothing).
5. Edit the novel mentioned above and submit it to 5 publishers.
Of the above resolutions, numbers 4 and 5 are the two that seem most likely to fail. I’m nervous about making them public because I’ve been in this position before with my writing, and I know how easily I fall by the wayside. Hopefully, by declaring my intentions online I might find the motivation I need to achieve them.
A very Happy New Year to you, and I hope 2018 brings many interesting experiences.
While working at sea, I was occasionally on a ship when it was approached by the local coastguard asking if they could practice manoeuvres. On one memorable occasion, a member of the helicopter crew landed on our vessel, where he had a brief chat with us before being winched back into the chopper. Being a bit of a wag, and aware of a captive audience, he did a few tricks on the way back up. When he turned himself upside down and waggled his legs in the air we gave him a joyous round of applause.