Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Tuesday 30 May 2017

And this week's book signing ...

Gosh, I don't think I could keep up one signing a week for more than a fortnight!

But yes, this Friday evening at 6.30 if you're near St. Andrews pop into Waterstone's on Market Street - we'd love to see you!

I enjoyed last Sunday in Blackwell's very much, and everyone was so kind and I was delighted to meet some lovely chatty readers. Now I'm convinced this one is going to be a disaster because, well, my mind works that way and I'm sure I can't have two good events in one week!

Sunday 28 May 2017

A literary house for May

When I first read this book, when I was about the age of the heroine, I reached the last page and almost cried that it was over – my first experience of such a thing, and it was so strong it has stayed with me. The Silver Crown, by Robert O’Brien, was written in 1973 and is set in America. Ellen receives a mysterious silver crown for her tenth birthday, but finds it brings her into terrible danger. She heads across country with her new friend Otto and his crow Richard to try to escape, only to find herself at the heart of the mystery. The house I have chosen is the house where Otto lives with the woman he thinks is his mother: it is hidden in the woods and is Ellen’s first really safe bolthole since the start of her journey.


“In the middle of Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s house there was one big cluttered, comfortable rectangular chamber that served as kitchen, dining and living room combined. Her wood stove was the biggest object in it… It was made of velvet black cast iron; it had six round stovelids as big as pies, and an oven big enough to hold a grown man (if properly folded); it stood on six shiny legs and was studded with gleaming nickel-plated knobs and spring-wire handles to regulate the draughts and open and close the doors. Its firebox had a glass window, so you could see the glowing logs inside. Out over the whole thing curved a great metal hood, with wide shelves to put things on to keep them warm, and above that, like a single huge   organ stop, rose the stove-pipe, curving majestically up and into the chimney.

The smells that came out of it were just as beautiful: the smell of cloves and ham, of roasting sweet potatoes, of fresh bread, and piercing through all of these, of a sweet cake baking.

At the stove end of the room, near a window, stood a plain wooden trestle table with   benches along the side and a chair at the end.


The other end of the room was lined with bookshelves, and books stood on them all the way to the ceiling. There were blue books, brown books, green ones and black ones, but most notably they were all old books, except for a few on an end of the one of the lower shelves. These were children’s books that Otto had acquired one way or another.


At this end of the room there was an old but comfortable sofa, several wooden chairs, a window seat with potted flowers growing on it and a cushion to sit on, and a big, rather ugly new armchair. At one end of the sofa stood a lamp table with a pretty, old-fashioned kerosene lamp on it. The mate of this lamp, which had a flowery white shade, stood on the dining table. A third hung from the ceiling. As evening fell and dinner-time came, Mrs. Fitzpatrick lit all three of these with a match. They gave off a pleasant, warm yellow light, much nicer than electric bulbs.”


Like Rivendell, this is a house that Ellen must leave to carry on on her quest, and we don’t return to it for the rest of the book – why could he not have written a sequel??

Thursday 25 May 2017

A Knife in Darkness booksigning - really happening!


Here's Blackwell's window in Old Aberdeen with the display for Mayfest, and there in the corner is A Knife in Darkness! I'm quite happy to be shoved over to the side by Tony Robinson, and indeed probably overshadowed by the archaeological dig happening just outside 15th. century King's College down the High Street.

If you're around Aberdeen, any moral support that you can offer at 12.30 this Sunday, 28th. May, would be gratefully received!

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Poking the seaweed at Montrose estuary

Off to the Scottish Wildlife Trust centre at Montrose estuary last week for an hour or so of dragging ourselves through the mud. It's a superb site for all kinds of estuary birds and wildlife, though the mud is a bit risky at low tide!

We saw plenty of sandmartins in the artificially-constructed nestbank, but didn't see the kingfisher! There's plenty of different seaweed, lots of life under it, too, and very neat little crabs.

Outside the primroses were in full bloom amongst the fading daffodils. Then it was off for a Danish in a suitably Danish cafe nearby, and back home.

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Eating Robots - book review


The future is bright…or is it?

Step into a high-tech vision of the future with the author of Quantum Confessions and Fluence, Stephen Oram.

Featuring health-monitoring mirrors, tele-empathic romances and limb-repossessing bailiffs, Eating Robots explores the collision of utopian dreams and twisted realities in a world where humanity and technology are becoming ever more intertwined.

Sometimes funny, often unsettling, and always with a word of warning, these thirty sci-fi shorts will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.



A universal booklinker link that detects which country you're in and links to Eating Robots myBook.to/EatingRobots

Stephen Oram writes thought provoking stories that mix science fiction with social comment, mainly in a recognisable near-future. He is the Author in Residence at Virtual Futures', once described as the 'Glastonbury of cyberculture'. He has collaborated with scientists and future-tech people to write short stories that create debate about potential futures, most recently with the Human Brain Project and Bristol Robotics Laboratory as part of the Bristol Literature Festival.

As a teenager he was heavily influenced by the ethos of punk. In his early twenties he embraced the squatter scene and was part of a religious cult, briefly. He did some computer stuff in what became London's silicon roundabout and is now a civil servant with a gentle attraction to anarchism.

He has two published novels - Quantum Confessions and Fluence - and several shorter pieces.


Find Stephen Oram on:


My review:

A collection of sharp little short stories, or episodes, set in the near and pretty horrible future. It’s not absolutely clear if it is one future vision or several related ones, but it’s certainly fairly dystopian in a way that makes it all too clear how we got there from here. These stories will make you think, shudder, and perhaps even modify some of your behaviour, just in case … Included at the end are several responses to the questions asked by some of the stories, submitted by academics, which makes an interesting if unexpected counterpoint to the stories themselves. Well-written and disturbingly imagined, these stories will live with me for a while. Definitely worth reading.

Monday 1 May 2017

April's literary house

I had this all set to go then in the rush to the book launch on Saturday forgot all about it!

There are few imaginary homes which have so influenced modern architecture, albeit usually of the individual, self-built sort, than Bilbo Baggins’ hole in the ground in The Hobbit, so I know I am far from alone in fantasising about owning my own hobbit hole. All together now!

‘In a hole in the ground …’


“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.


It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob exactly in the middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats – the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill – The Hill, as all the people for many miles around called it – and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.”


I think any fan must have cheered when they saw the recreation of Bag End in the first Lord of the Rings film – just what we’d always dreamed of!