Views and Food at the Ship Inn

The harbor at high tide---the Ship Inn is the large white building in the center

The harbor at high tide—the Ship Inn is the large white building in the center

Even at low tide on a grey evening, the harbor is still pretty

Even at low tide on a grey evening, the harbor is still pretty

RodharborStonehaven, Scotland: The Ship Inn

Stonehaven is a pretty seaside town about 20 miles south of Aberdeen, and we like to stay there a few days to relax after the conference in Aberdeen. We have stayed at the Ship Inn before, so were very happy to get a room here again. We did it through Booking.com so we got a pretty good rate, double with breakfast.

We had room 5, which isn’t the best as it has a “view” onto the trash alley at the side of the hotel, but otherwise it’s fine, and actually not too noisy, as the front rooms facing the harbor are. Rooms are not plush, but perfectly comfortable.

The breakfast is very good—juices, cereals, fruits, tea/coffee, toast and a choice of cooked breakfast, all served in their restaurant.

What really makes the Ship Inn is the friendliness of the staff, the congenial atmosphere at a local gathering place, and the location right on the picturesque little harbor. Lots of people come to the Ship Inn, to drink, chat and hang out—both inside and outside—so we see prams, kids, dogs etc. Parents can sit on the narrow seawall with a drink, while the kids play happily in the sand. Rodmeal

The Captain’s Table restaurant in the Ship Inn is also pretty good; great food, well presented, and some interesting combos. It’s worth eating there at least once, and it’s best to make a reservation, especially at weekends, as it’s very popular and one of only 3 places on the harbor (the others are Marine Hotel and the Tollbooth). A bottle of wine is well priced—ca £15—and a large glass of beer is ca £3.20-ish. The focus is on seafood, although there are other offerings too. One night we had mussels and smoked salmon as appetizers, and then sea bass as the main dish. It was served with 2 giant prawns on top and came on a bed of courgette (zucchini) strips, like pasta.


VivmealAnother night, we had the soups of the day (carrot and coriander, and the local Scottish cullen skink, a bit like a fish chowder), tuna steak on noodles, and salmon with caper puree, squashed baby potatoes, and green asparagus. All excellent.

A lovely place.



Entrance to British Museum

Entrance to British Museum

Small Medals Tell a Large History

exhibitentrance(This is the final post on the WW1 commemorative exhibits we visited this summer).

If you will be visiting London before mid-November this year you will be able to take in two of the special exhibits that I’ve posted about, as the one we saw in Paris (see http://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/ww1-centenary-commemorations-part-2-paris/ ) has now moved to London’s St James’s Park, where it will be until 11th November: Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace 14-18

After that, it will tour the UK and internationally until 2018, as a way of bringing the Centenary to hundreds of thousands of people. www.fieldsofbattle1418.org

The other special exhibition is at the British Museum: “The Other Side of the Medal: How Germany Saw the First World War”. It will run until November 23, 2014. Museum entrance is free, as is entrance to this exhibit.

Good information about the museum at www.britishmuseum.org entrancehelmet

This small exhibit very cleverly uses the common phrase “The Other Side of the Coin”, meaning to look at a different viewpoint. Here, it does try to show how the other side thought about the war, literally using coins (medals).

This display shows medals produced by artists during the War, documenting the events of the conflict from an emotional as well as an historical perspective. There are many German, some French and a few British medals.

There are medals telling the story of the Battle of Verdun and Battle of Jutland, German zeppelins over London, and many about the sinking of the Lusitania.

On May 7, 1915, the passenger liner RMS Lusitania was sunk enroute from New York to Liverpool by a torpedo from a German U-boat submarine. The sinking of the Lusitania turned public opinion in the USA against Germany.

If I had to pick out just one medal to show here it would be America in the World War, by Ludwig Gies, Germany 1917.


Gies’ giant animal-headed raft represents America. Profits from the sale of armaments to allied powers pour from its mouth, while ranks of guns form the beast’s back. America formally joined the war in 1917, although it had been supplying arms to the Allies throughout.

As the war came to an end, artists produced medals about the blockade of Germany and then about the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919.

A small but significant exhibit that gives one a different perspective of this great conflict. Well worth a quick visit.


Scotland, Aberdeen. Aberdeen’s War, continued


Some of McBey's sketches, especially of camels in the desert, are blown up on the walls

Some of McBey’s sketches, especially of camels in the desert, are blown up on the walls

At the Aberdeen Art Gallery, in a separate room is another part to the exhibition featuring James McBey War Artist, 1883-1959. He was a self-taught artist, born and raised in Aberdeenshire. In 1917 his artistic contribution to the war effort was recognized when he was recommended for appointment as Official War Artist in France and with the British Expeditionary Force in the Middle East, including 5 days with the Australian Camel Corps in the Sinai Desert.

The artist’s wartime prints include a great collection that evokes the devastation he witnessed in France, on the Western Front. Some famous sketches are “The Sussex” a torpedoed passenger ship beached of Boulogne, and “France at her Furnaces”, workers at the Schneider munitions works at Harfleur. Later came “Spring 1917”, spare but powerful. The capture of Trone Wood was a difficult and costly action that took place in July 1916. McBey visited the scene in early spring the following year, and he shows the aftermath of the battle with broken trees and a land devoid of life (see below).

McBey perfectly captured the stark desolation of WW1

McBey perfectly captured the stark desolation of WW1

camels2He produced hundreds of drawings in pen, ink and watercolor, also recording the campaign in Palestine and Sinai. Notable are many wonderful sketches of camels. This great collection illustrates military and civilian aspects of the war and sheds some light on a theatre of conflict that is often overlooked in pubic commemorations of WW1.

McBey painted portraits of two of the protagonists of the Egyptian campaign, Emir Faisal and T. E. Lawrence—we see McBey’s preparatory sketches, as the originals are in the Imperial War Museum in London, as are many of his other official war sketches. What fun to see what Lawrence of Arabia actually looked like—not just what we imagine from the movie of the same name! In one panel of portraits is also a sketch of George Langley, the Australian commander of the Sinai Camel Corps (see below, for the 3 men).

LofAand Faisal

Some of these images were later translated into etchings and they are on display in the McBey Room in the museum along with sketchbooks and original photographs, bequeathed by his widow, Marguerite.

McBey’s photographs also documented the war—this talented man captured the war with this other medium too. The black-and-white photos are in albums, with a slideshow presentation just above them.

McBey was unknown to us so, this exhibit was a real bonus, as he was obviously very talented, adding to the understanding of the war experience. He later became an artist of international renown, painting in Morocco, southern France and other warm places! His widow, Marguerite, donated much of his collected life works to the Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Note the portrait of Sir James Taggart (wearing the cap) on the right back wall, and the 3 conscription ads

Note the portrait of Sir James Taggart (wearing the cap) on the right back wall, and the 3 conscription ads

Some of the walls had blown-up pictures of actual war photos

Some of the walls had blown-up pictures of actual war photos

Scotland, Aberdeen: In Aberdeen at the Aberdeen Art Gallery, a special exhibition called Aberdeen’s War was on June-July-August, 2014. Drawing on the city’s rich collections, it explored different aspects of Aberdeen’s involvement in the Great War, one of the most important events of the 20th century.

A second part to this was an exhibit on James McBey, war artist from Aberdeenshire (will be in Part 3B).

Aberdeen’s War was a very good exhibit of the involvement of people of Aberdeen in all aspects of the war—an individualized and personalized account, as opposed to hundreds of unnamed troops marching off to war or being killed in battle. In contrast to the photo exhibit in Paris that showed nature healing, this was sometimes stark, grey and somber—a collection of personal things and of what people thought and did.

The war was a huge international event, but was also a local and personal one. Families and their memories are an integral part of the story and this is reflected here in poignant letters and photos, and other items. It was really interesting and thought-provoking to read the informational boards about many of these. While we were there an older man asked us to take his photo next to a large portrait of Sir James Taggart, which we did. Taggart was the Lord Provost (kind of like mayor) of Aberdeen during the war. He then told us that Taggart was his grandfather and that he was here for the day “to commune”. That brought a lump to our throats, for sure!

Taggart also wrote a book about the war

Taggart also wrote a book about the war

Some examples of the exhibition that stood out:

Women’s Volunteer Reserve—see their magazine, which cost twopence monthly.













A Voluntary Aid Detachment Uniform, worn by local nurse Flora Davidson. The VAD scheme was founded in 1901 under the British Red Cross and initially only trained nurses could be sent overseas, but that changed in WW1 due to a shortage of nurses. The red cross on the bib of the apron distinguished them from professional nurses.

A book, We Have Served, by W. S. Stephen of Aberdeen, is a record of wartime experiences. Whilst many others reacted differently, Stephen and Lord Provost Taggart felt strongly that these memories should be shared. Taggart wrote an introduction to this volume.


Another book, Stories Told by Sir James Taggart, 1926 (see top)

And a Signature Book, a lovely volume containing convalescing soldiers’ signatures, drawings and poems, very poignant. From the start of the war, wounded men were brought from the Front to Aberdeen. Woodend Hospital was commandeered for these men.


Another cute book, Rags the Diary of a Dog at War. This light-hearted and heart-warming story is a dog Rags who follows his owner on training, manages to find himself on the front lines, sees active combat, captures a German, gets injured and receives a medal for his bravery. It reflects the hopes of what people felt that service might bring and is very much a product of its time.

Some of the stories and cartoons in this book were actually quite funny!

Some of the stories and cartoons in this book were actually quite funny!

semaphore—A Chart of Semaphore signs.

—Letters written home by a very young soldier who died.

—A child’s Ration Book

—Three colorful posters urging young people to enlist








Please do walk on the map

Please do walk on the map

In Paris at the Luxembourg Gardens was a fascinating free exhibition, called Fields of Battle—Terres de Paix 14-18, an Anglo-French collaboration (April 4-August 4, 2014).

It was in 2 parts: large photo panels and a huge map mounted onto the ground. The photographer is Michael St Maur Sheil.

Many large photos were posted along the outside garden railings (where they often have picture exhibitions), each with French, English and German explanations. Each panel links past and present, with small black and white photos from WW1 times, or short poems of stories of people. It’s been developed as a gateway to the battlefields and is a different way for people to find out more about WW1. It tries to reveal some of the landscapes of battle and illustrate the stories of some of the people who experienced those battles.

The sub-title of the photographic exhibit is “Forests have a history to share”. The focus was on forests and trees during WW1 and showcases iconic forest battlefield sites, such as Verdun. It’s based, not just on the horrors of war, but on how over time nature has (mostly) healed the battlefields, trenches and other landscapes, creating a link between the modern day and the personal dramas and stories these peaceful landscapes now hide.

All the photos are incredible and thought-provoking, but here are 5 that seemed especially interesting to us, providing information we’d not known before.

barbed wire

First, Corkscrew Picket, Flanders, Belgium. Originally invented in the USA in the late 1880s to keep animals in place, barbed wire became the most common form of obstacle against infantry and was used by all sides in the war. Making this obstacle on the battlefield was dangerous because of the noise of hammering the metal pickets into the ground. In 1915 the Germans invented a metal stake with a corkscrew at the end that could be turned silently to anchor into the ground. Millions were manufactured and farmers still use them today. The tip gave them their name, the “Tir de cochon” or “pig’s tail”.

marshesSecond, Marshes of the River Ancre, Authuille, Somme area. The war-torn landscapes of 1914-18 affected a whole generation of writers, poets, musicians and artists, who left us their haunted memories, including Tolkien. Lieutenant J. R. R. Tolkien was one of thousands of British soldiers crouching in trenches when the battle of the Somme began here on July 1, 1916. The eerie landscape amidst the marshes of the River Ancre was one of the stimuli for his novel “Lord of the Rings”.

Third, Battlefield Burial Site Memorial, Marne. This stark image of a helmet shows how most soldiers’ burials were initially marked on the western front. Later, after the fighting, lone graves, like this one of a French soldier, were moved into national war cemeteries with wooden crosses as grave markers. Later, Germany, France, Belgium, Britain and the USA established war graves commissions to design permanent graveyards, with stone or concrete markers for each soldier, and memorial panels for the missing. Sadly, many hundreds of thousands of soldiers are still unaccounted for. Nearly every lone grave has been transferred to a war cemetery, except this one, now hidden away on private land.


trenchesNext, the Trenches at Beaumont-Hamel, Somme. As part of this war, sides dug in: the trenches that scarred the landscape became one of the ghastly icons of the 20th century.

Lastly, River Izonzo in Slovenia. The now peaceful River Izonzo, called Soca in Slovenia, was the scene of 12 attritional battles between the Italians and the Austro-Hungarian Empire during 1915-18. These campaigns cost both sides over 300,000 lives, literally making the river run like blood. Many people don’t realize that WW1 was not only fought on the Western Front.



My feet are marking multiple battle sites

My feet are marking multiple battle sites

We like photography as a medium and found this a very clever and intellectual way of linking modern photos to a hugely significant event 100 years ago, one that changed the whole world. The modern photos capture the unique beauty of the landscape, in a healing sort of way, as Nature slowly covers up some of the stark scars. It was also neat to learn the origin of some words, like schrapnel and land mines.

The other significant and very informative feature of this exhibition was a giant map mounted onto the ground. Michelin (of map fame since 1889) created a map of the battlefields, memorial sites and countries involved in the conflict. It was in front of the Palais du Luxembourg (now the French Senate). This giant map—16x8m with surrounding information panels— combines geographical, historical and tourism information, which complements the exhibition. People are encouraged to walk on the map, which gives a really visceral understanding of where the conflict was. As we walk between the countries in Europe, it highlights the scale and complexity of the conflict with details of key battlefield locations. What is most amazing is to see and walk on the line depicting the Front Line, the front that didn’t move that much, in France or Belgium. It moved only a very little, for very little gain, great loss of life and terrible loss of resources. In that sense, the map captured how futile WW1 was—in the sense of losing lives and not gaining much actual ground.

The Front Lines---it seems the maximum ground gained was about 30km

The Front Lines—it seems the maximum ground gained was about 30km

Other parts of the world involved in WW1

Other parts of the world involved in WW1

The handrail around the giant map is made from a hundred-year-old beech tree that survived the Battle of Charmes, which took place early in the war. It is a symbol that connects the history of the ravaged forests with events today.



A fun Michelin ad from WW1 times

A fun Michelin ad from WW1 times

On August 4, 2014 this exhibition moved to London and is being exhibited in St James’s Park as Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace 14-18 until November 11th. It’s a free street gallery project to reach audiences who might normally not visit a museum or art gallery and to give them a chance to see the battlefields as they are today. After that, it will tour the UK and internationally until 2018, as a way of bringing the Centenary to hundreds of thousands of people.


The Exhibit in Stonehaven, Scotland, Eases Us In Gently

The Tollbooth Museum in Stonehaven on the edge of the small harbor

The Tollbooth Museum in Stonehaven on the edge of the small harbor

"Daddy what did you do in the Great War?"

“Daddy what did you do in the Great War?”

WW1 Brief Introduction:

Many people have a direct interest in WW1, as some member of their family was involved in some way. It was such a catastrophic conflict that probably almost no family came out unscathed. My grandfather fought as a soldier and was badly wounded at the Battle of the Somme, which forever affected his life. He didn’t speak of it much, but the scars, both physical and emotional, were always there.

One hundred years ago this summer, Europe geared up for war. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarejevo on June 28, 1914, sparked a series of events as France, Great Britain, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary mobilized troops.

By August, battles flared up across the continent. The German army invaded Belgium, then France, and fought with Russia. Sides dug in: the trenches that scarred the landscape became one of the ghastly icons of the 20th century.

Some ten million soldiers and seven million civilians died in WW1 and around twenty million military personnel and civilians were wounded, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. Empires disappeared and new nations appeared, with huge historical consequences that we are still trying to comprehend.

For the front-line soldier, WW1 was a harrowing experience and much has been written about it. Many still see the conflict as a futile waste, and most people are still trying to fully understand its impact and what it was all about.

In this centennial year of the start of the Great War, many countries and towns around the world, and especially in Europe, have mounted special exhibitions and displays, in an effort to try and explain and understand, and to commemorate all those involved. We were in Paris, London and parts of Scotland in June and in all places we were fortunate enough to take in some of these special exhibits—all very interesting in their own way, and all attempting to approach the issue from their unique perspective.

Entrance to Tollbooth Museum

Entrance to Tollbooth Museum

What young women need to think

What young women need to think

The First Exhibit of Wartime Posters

At the Tollbooth Museum in Stonehaven, a lovely tranquil fishing village about 15 miles south of Aberdeen, Scotland, is a small collection of 5 wartime posters commemorating this devastating period of history, as part of their local history collection.

Originally built as a store for Dunnotor Castle nearby, it became the town jail and court (the “Tollbooth”) from 1600-1767. It was renovated and opened by the Queen Mother in 1963 and in 1975 the ground floor became a museum. The upper floor is a nice restaurant.

A couple of the posters are very patriotic, really pushing conscription, like the one trying to make young women feel guilty if their men were not off fighting, or suggesting the men join the Air Force, to share the honor and glory; others show how to help the war effort by donating silver objects, or praise women for continuing with farming at home.

Fascinating stuff and even these few posters give us a glimpse into what it must have been like for the people involved at that time. I remember my grandmother talking about the war, about her father going to the front, and how women had to do so much more at home, so it all fits into the picture she painted.

Someone still needs to be home to tend the land

Someone still needs to be home to tend the land

Another way to be patriotic

Another way to be patriotic

The Air Force as a 'carrot'

The Air Force as a ‘carrot’




While I’m on the theme of tea….Drinking tea, a favorite British pastime

Waterfront street in the village on Iona Island

Waterfront street in the village on Iona Island


On that street is the Argyll Hotel

On that street is the Argyll Hotel

The Island of Mull, in the Scottish Hebrides (west coast), can only be reached by ferry, so it’s less touristy than the Isle of Skye a bit further north. But, it has much to offer and is well worth spending a few days there, which we did.

Besides the picturesque port and capital of Tobermory, with its colorful buildings lining the quay, two of the main sights are the island of Iona and Duart Castle. We visited both this summer and had a typical British afternoon tea at both.

You reach the small island of Iona off the west coast of Mull by ferry as a foot passenger. It’s probably Scotland’s most iconic spiritual destination. Saint Columba founded a monastery on Iona in 563 AD and began his mission to convert Scotland to Christianity. For many centuries the kings of Scotland were buried at this monastery (including Macbeth, supposedly, although his grave is not distinguishable any more).

The focus on the island is the Abbey, Nunnery, churches and small museum (which I’ll post on later), but there is also a tiny village along the waterfront where the ferry comes in. Here we found the Argyll Hotel, a good place for lunch or afternoon tea—featuring HUGE scones.

We decide to share one scone

We decide to share one scone


Rod cuts into his half scone. I wait to pour the tea from the china pot

Rod cuts into his half scone. I wait to pour the tea from the china pot









The view from the hotel tearoom window---the Iona post office

The view from the hotel tearoom window—the Iona post office


Duart Castle on the isolated headland---the view from the castle tearoom

Duart Castle on the isolated headland—the view from the castle tearoom

Back on the island of Mull, on an isolated spit of land south of the ferry village of Craignure, is Duart Castle. This 13th century home of the Clan Maclean sits dramatically above the sea cliffs. It was in a very ruined state, but was renovated in 1911, and now offers interesting tours telling the turbulent story of the clan. In a separate newer building near the car park you can find a tearoom, gift shop and toilets. On a different day, sitting in the tearoom, we had an amazing view of the castle.

(rather back-lit unfortunately). What a lovely setting for another delicious tea

(rather back-lit unfortunately). What a lovely setting for another delicious tea

valeriu dg barbu

writings, remedy of soul



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