View of Centre Hallway House

I climbed a hill and lost 200 years but where is Jamie?

Mea culpa…

Hmm. Maybe I should have thought twice about committing to writing blog posts while I was on vacation.  I seem to be getting a bit lax about deadlines as the vacation progresses. I guess it’s a good thing no one enforces the deadlines but me. :-)

Anyway, when last we met I was looking forward to visiting The Highland Village Museum (An Clachan Gàidhealach) at Iona in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I am happy to report that I had a spectacular visit on a beautiful sunny day last week. The Village is spread across a hill overlooking the great Bras d’Or inland sea but the views before you even enter the village proper are just spectacular. I was also presented with immediate opportunities to test my Gàidhlig comprehension (I give myself a B+).

A Journey Begins…

Once I paid for my admission ticket, I began my journey through the history of Cape Breton settlement. There weren’t any stones but I still managed to lose over 200 years as I climbed the tree-shaded path up the hill. I wonder if I will find Jamie?

The first habitation on my tour is a Black House—or An Taigh Dubh in Gàidhlig. This is the type of dwelling that many Scottish emigrants left in Scotland when they moved across the Atlantic to Nova Scotia. As I stepped into the hazy darkness of the single room lit only by a peat fire, I was greeted by it’s resident—a shepherd who tended his lordship’s flocks. He apologized for the clutter, as he was in the final stages of preparing to move across the Great Sea to join his wife and children who had already left. He was very interested to hear if I had any first-hand information about the new land of Nova Scotia. I tried to channel my best inner Claire (a character in Outlander for the uninitiated) and make a few comments without prophesying like Cassandra. ;-)

A trifle gratefully, I made my escape from the Black House and move further up the hill toward the first habitations of the Scots in the new world of Cape Breton.

An alien land…

Continuing up the hill, I paused to speak to some other new residents—Heiland Coos!

Once passed the coos, I entered the realm of the first Scots in Nova Scotia. The first thing the Scots had to do when they arrived was clear the great forests that covered their new home. As those of you who are familiar with the Scottish Highlands may realize, this was quite a change from the deforested landscape most of them had left. In fact, many of them had only carried a single axe head on their voyage and had to craft a handle for that before it could even be used.

However, once they did manage to get some trees felled, they were able to build dwellings for themselves and their animals. Entering the log cabin, I was greeted by a frontierswoman—in Gaelic!  I answered her ‘Ciamar a tha sibh?’ with ‘Glè mhath.’ I fancy she was a bit surprised but I don’t think even I could butcher the pronunciation of that too badly. Pleasantries exchanged, she was happy to show me around her humble home.

Prosperity beckons…

Exiting the Log Cabin (Taigh-logaichean), I made my way forward in time to the house of a slightly more prosperous farmer who owned a center-chimney house. This dwelling was a vast improvement over the log cabin. It had painted walls, a hardwood floor and actual partitioned rooms—all clustered around a central fireplace that provided not only for cooking but also the heat for the entire house. Also, many of the rooms served more than one function. You will note in one of the pictures below that the living room is set up for a milling frolic where they waulk the wool to make the cloth softer and more durable. An interesting note about waulking wool—in Scotland waulking was done exclusively by women but in Nova Scotia it was done by women and men. Personally, I think the men just didn’t want to be left out of the singing and gossiping that were part of any Cape Breton function. For all you Outlander fans, I have heard that there may be a waulking scene in Outlander!

After leaving the previous house, I ventured into the church that has served the community for hundreds of years. One of the things I have noticed since I first began coming to Cape Breton almost 15 years ago, is that every community seems to have set aside the piece of land with the best view for their church, and this was no exception.

Leaving the church situated on the high ground, I descended into a Cape Breton village of roughly the 19th century time period. I stopped to peek into a Centre Hallway house from about 1865 and admired the brand new cook-stove. Such a time-saver for the farmer’s wife.

Tentative steps…

After the 1865 house, I walked past the Village School and then stepped into a turn-of-the-century General Store. This is where I got very brave. Not only did I answer the Storekeeper’s ‘Ciamar a tha sibh’ query with ‘Glè mhath,’ but I even ventured a further comment on the weather—’Tha e glè briagh an-diugh!’  Smugly I thought to myself—Àdham would be so proud—unfortunately, however, the storekeeper took this to mean I spoke Gaelic fluently and unleashed a torrent of Gaelic at me. Luckily, she quickly interpreted my panicked deer-in-the-headlights look correctly and switched back to English. We did have a lovely conversation though about how I came to speak even a little Gaelic and I took the opportunity to tell her about a new upcoming television series called Outlander. ;-)

I finally found Jamie…

Next up on my path through the village was the Blacksmith’s Shop. And guess what!! I finally found Jamie. Ok, so maybe he’s not a six-foot four-inch Highland Scot with red hair, but he does speak Gaelic and has a useful skill! I took a few pictures and a quick video of him at work making nails. (And just maybe had a brief flashback to a certain scene in MOBY).

The last stop on my tour of the Highland Village Museum was a turn of the 20th century house. These are the types of houses still much in evidence in many places on Cape Breton. In this house, modern appliances such as stoves, washing machines and ice cream churns are starting to be seen. As I concluded my tour, I stopped to read the signboard about the 21st century Gaels in Cape Breton and also to make a purchase in the gift shop. I’ve never yet experienced anything easy about Gaelic but I’m hopeful this little book will live up to its cover.

I hope you’ve enjoyed taking this tour through the Cape Breton Highland Village museum with me. If you are ever in Cape Breton—and I sincerely hope you will visit—be sure to stop by. You can find all the details about planning a visit at their website: Highland Village Museum

Final note…

I also wanted to take a moment to congratulate Linda Schultz (@lsdragonfly1) on winning the first ever GreatScot! giveaway. I know that the signed first edition copy of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood and the Outlander poster will have a wonderful home—just as soon as I’m home long enough to mail it!

Stay tuned for the next post all about my visit to the Gaelic College (Colaisde na Gàidhlig) where I see a man about a kilt, observe a waulking demonstration and listen to some fine fiddling from a former Premier of Nova Scotia!

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As Promised, the first Great Scot! giveaway is here…

As followers of Great Scot! know, I recently had the opportunity to attend the Outlander Retreat in Seattle hosted by Random House for the launch of MOBY. If you missed them, you can catch up on my experiences at the event by checking out the following blog posts:

I love it when a Clan comes together, Outlander Retreat Day 1

Thar She Blows – A Day full of MOBY – Outlander Retreat Main Event Part 1

From Savory Meat Pies to Starz in My Eyes – Outlander Retreat Main Event Part 2

All Mixed Up and Sitting on Top of the World – Outlander Retreat Main Event Part 3

As a result of attending the event though, I was able to pick up a few excellent items and am making these items part of the inaugural Great Scot! giveaway: A signed first edition, first printing of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood and a 17″x11″ Key Art poster for the Outlander TV series on Starz.

This giveaway is open to US and international residents. It starts on June 30 at 8:30 am and will end at midnight on July 14.

For more details and to enter, click here.

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By Any Other Name: Genre Gabaldonian

Guest Post for GreatScot!  by Laura Carmichael @LallybrochLaura

With a sigh of happiness, I finished re-reading Shakespeare’s Richard III — a play I have tickets to see performed again soon. After seeing peace restored to England, I closed the book, and slipped it back onto the bookshelf. I then went online, where I was delighted to see a link to an article about another beloved author, Diana Gabaldon, and her Outlander series of books. That delight was marred by a sense of vexation at seeing these works referred to, yet again, as “Science Fiction.” Although I’m accustomed to seeing Gabaldon’s works labeled as “Science Fiction,” or even “Romance,” I felt puzzled at the heat of my irritation. Why, I asked myself, is this still so irksome to me? After all, I am a long-time Gabaldon reader, well used to the haphazard application of these genre labels to her work.

The answer was right there at eye-level on my bookshelves in the well-thumbed rows of books by two of the authors I most love: William Shakespeare and Diana Gabaldon. I’ve recently been re-reading several of both authors’ works — in preparation for my upcoming attendance at several Shakespeare play performances, and for Gabaldon’s new book and upcoming TV series. There on the shelves was the answer: it is exactly as appropriate to label Shakespeare a Science Fiction or Romance writer as it is to so label Gabaldon. From a genre perspective, there is no difference or distinction between these two authors.

ShakespeareLet me explain. Both authors use varied plot elements to advance their characters into extreme, challenging circumstances. From these extremities both authors then skillfully reveal insights into What It Means to Be Human as the characters grapple with their challenges.  Sometimes those plot elements are Science Fiction elements, and sometimes they are Romance elements — or Political, Adventure, Mystery, Humor, or any of a number of other elements. Yet both authors cover the entire spectrum of human experience, from boredom to ecstasy, silliness to sublimity, confusion to single-minded clarity, and on and on. Both authors use myriad devices to get their DGcharacters’ stories in motion, and those devices are never constraining to these authors, nor are they ever The Point. The Point is how the characters feel, think, act, learn, and change with the layers in their stories; The Point is how that in turn makes us, their audience, feel, think, act, learn, and change in our lives.

“Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons” – As You Like It, W. Shakespeare

All right, well enough. All of the above duly noted, it is true the Outlander books use time travel to move characters into challenging situations. Given that, what is wrong with calling Gabaldon’s works Science Fiction? Or similarly, since they feature people in love, what is wrong with labeling them Romance novels? So what?

To answer that, let’s take Shakespeare as a comparison, starting with one example, Hamlet. Several of his greatest and most popular works rely on Science Fiction/Fantasy elements to get the characters in motion — including Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet.

You may recall Hamlet begins with the “dreaded sight” of an “apparition.” It isn’t a figment of Hamlet’s mind, which would make it merely a psychological device. Others see it first, and bring it to Hamlet’s attention. The apparition gets all of the action of the play in motion by calling on Hamlet to revenge what the apparition alleges is his father’s “murder most foul.” Hamlet and the audience never find out what this supernatural being, claiming to be the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Hamletreally is. A shaken, distraught Hamlet fears it may be a demonic force trying to trick him into horrible acts; this is partly why Hamlet is unsure what actions to take. Like most great Science Fiction devices, it ultimately doesn’t matter what the apparition is, or how it got there. Indeed, throughout the rest of the play, it makes only one other brief appearance — and that one Hamlet may be imagining. What matters is that this fantastical force catapults the unwilling Hamlet, and thereby everyone around him, into the rest of the action of the story.

Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Nights Dream, Hamlet — all of these rely on unmistakable Science Fiction plot elements to propel the characters into the situations where we see what stuff they (and we) are made on. Yet if we were to read news articles containing phrases such as “noted Science Fiction author William Shakespeare” or “Shakespeare’s greatest work, the Sci-Fi/Fantasy play Hamlet,” we would feel something was rotten. Why? After all, those descriptors are accurate, as far as they go.

And there’s the rub. While they are accurate as far as they go, they do not go far enough. This overly reductive labeling is inaccurate because of its ludicrous, woeful inadequacy.

It’s like explaining America to a potential tourist by only describing Las Vegas — which would create an odd, misleading image. When they later saw Yosemite, they would wonder why we’d spoken only of gambling and sparkling lights — or worse, they might never see Yosemite at all.

How Do I Love Thee? (Haute Bawdy & Hot Bodies)

HotGabaldon’s works have also often been labeled as Romance novels and stocked in that section of bookstores. And, like Gabaldon, Shakespeare wrote about humans in love and in lust — requited and unrequited, enduring and transactional, transformative and twisted. Both authors are superb at evoking these feelings in their audience, and generating empathies and insights we find so compelling we must come back for more.  They are also both superb at showing us the bawdy and comedic aspects of our species’ amatory activities.

Yet most Shakespearean aficionados would cringe to hear Shakespeare described merely as “Romance author William Shakespeare.” Why? None of his works, even those with the greatest couples, love scenes andBrannaugh quotable-quotes, is merely a Romance. While Outlanders love Jamie and Claire — much as generations have loved Benedick and Beatrice — Outlander is not merely a Romance, any more than Much Ado About Nothing is.

“What’s Past is Prologue” – The Tempest, W. Shakespeare

Although Shakespeare pre-dates Gabaldon by 400 years, they share the same wonderful predicament — they have each created their own genre. If Shakespeare started out today, he would likely be as mislabeled as Gabaldon is.  There is some indication he was mislabeled in his own time, and found it irksome: he pokes sardonic fun at the way his contemporaries classify works, as Polonius recites a silly litany of genres “tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited” to Hamlet. Continue reading

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All Mixed Up and Sitting on Top of the World – Outlander Retreat Main Event Part 3

When last we met, Retreat attendees were giving the new Outlander Behind the Scenes feature a rousing standing ovation. Alas, that was the end of the official presentations of the Outlander Retreat weekend. Last up in the official events schedule was the Afternoon Mixer.

Nibbles and Natterings

Exiting the main hall to the skirl of  bagpipes and still on a tremendous adrenaline high from all the fantastic tidbits and visuals of the last hour, I found myself facing a banquet worthy of Castle Leoch and Mrs. Fitz herself.

 


For the next two hours, Outlanders mixed and mingled with each other as well as with Diana and many of the Random House and Starz reps. It was a beautiful affair and Diana was beautiful and gracious as she moved from group to group. I think just about everyone had a chance to chat with her if they were patient. I had one very important question I had been wanting to ask and this was finally my chance. I knew that Diana had been listing the annual DragonCon event as tentative on her appearance schedule for a while, but I was finally able to confirm that she won’t be able to attend the event this year because of commitments in the UK.  While disappointed for myself, hopefully you readers in the UK will be able to experience the DG phenomenon in person for yourself.

As for the food, there was definitely some noshing going on. I had several bites that were delightful. My favorite was probably the smoked salmon on oatcake, but the shepherd’s pie bite was very good too.  I also tried the lavender fudge, and while it was good, I just seem to have a problem with lavender. I can’t imagine why. ;-)

Soon, though, all the food was eaten and slowly but surely everyone began to hug and bid each other farewell. I found I really had to drag myself away. Well in all honesty @LallybrochLaura had to drag me away, otherwise I might still be there. I just didn’t want the magic of the weekend to end. My last sight as I climbed the steps and stepped away from my magical weekend was this one of Kristin Matherly.

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I think she may have had the best idea of all. How much better can it get than a nice sunny spot and a great book to read?

A Meal with a View

Luckily for me, there was one last event on my unofficial Outlander Retreat agenda. A few friends and I planned a post-Retreat dinner in the revolving Sky City restaurant at the top of the Seattle Space Needle. As we were just a bit early for our reservation, Laura and I took the opportunity to visit the Space Needle Observation Deck on what had to be one of the most beautiful days in Seattle that I have ever seen.  Hardly a cloud in the sky and you felt you could see forever.

At dinner, the food was superb but the company even more so. It was a wonderful chance to sit down and really discuss all our feelings about the day and share with each other our favorite memories. You could actually feel friendships clicking and solidifying as we enjoyed our food, conversation, and revolving view. All too soon though, it was time for even that last remnant of the memory-filled day to be over. We all headed back to our hotels for the night and then back to our respective home cities and daily lives.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, like the Outlander Retreat weekend, it is time to wrap up my official Outlander Retreat blog posts. As I reflect on all the happenings of the last days, I find that it already seems to be fading into mythical status in my mind.

Did I really meet Diana Gabaldon?

Were all the online friends I met in person for the first time this weekend really as awesome as I had hoped they would be?

Do I really have in my hands the book that I have been waiting almost five years to read?

The answers to all these questions is yes. But even now, as I sit here composing this blog post, I find that I don’t want to let the weekend go.  For lack of any better words of my own, I’ve decided to include here one of my favorite songs by Scottish singer/songwriter Dougie MacLean titled ‘Caledonia’. For those who may not know, Caledonia is the Latin name given to Scotland by the Romans, and in this song MacLean is singing about being homesick for Scotland after a weekend with friends. I find this song fits my feelings perfectly because, after this magical wonderful weekend, I find myself homesick for Outlander. And just as soon as I hit publish on this blog, I will be diving right into that magical world once more.  Don’t be worried if you don’t hear from me for a bit, I’ll be in my favorite fictional world.

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From Savory Meat Pies to Starz in My Eyes – Outlander Retreat Main Event Part 2

OK. I’ve only had 3 hours of sleep but I’m back up and totally jazzed about finishing this blog post. Why does this never happen when I get 3 hours of sleep on a work night? But, yet again, I digress.  Where did I leave off?

A moment in the sun (of Diana’s presence)

Oh, yes! Lunch! But wait, there was this other little thing that happened before lunch. As a part of signing group D, I waited my turn to get Diana to personalize my brand new copy of MOBY! Happily, the line moved pretty quickly as attendees were limited to having their copies of MOBY personalized with just their name. Being the lovely gracious woman that she is, Diana signed my copy for me in the Acknowledgements section where my name appeared. I was thrilled to have another few moments to have her sign the book, thank me for my help, and have my picture taken.

Still basking in the glow of my moment with DG, I headed up to grab some lunch. Some of us who have blogs and fan sites had deliberately maneuvered our way into the same signing group so that we could have lunch together and plot strategies for getting new subscribers for Starz. This is important: New subscribers will be one of several key drivers for the success of the Outlander TV series and determine whether it is renewed for subsequent seasons.

Entering the Armory food court, I found it to be a hub of activity. Apparently, in addition to our own event, there was also some kind of Filipino cultural celebration being held. Skirting the resultant crowds, I scoped out my options and settled on Pies! I figured a savory meat pie would be the closest meal I could come to one that Jamie and Claire likely will eat in MOBY. The Cheeseburger Meat Pie was delicious. (I really wanted the English Meat Pie, but there weren’t any ready when I ordered and besides, I was afraid that would brand me a Sassenach forever.)

Cheeseburger pie

Cheeseburger pie

After our strategy session wrapped up and lunch was devoured, we headed back down to the Fisher Pavilion for the continuation of the afternoon events.

Highland Fling

First up on the roster of afternoon activities was a demonstration of Scottish dancing. Seattle’s Royal Scottish Dance Society delighted attendees with their performance of Scottish country dances in both soft and hard shoe. I was also delighted to hear several tunes that I recognized as staples in the Cape Breton, Nova Scotia musical repertoire. Cutest of all were the littlest costumed members of the group. I caught some lovely pictures and a few short videos to give you a taste.

After the dancing, I spent the next hour pleasantly conversing with many Outlanders I heretofore had only known through social media while valiantly ignoring the siren call of MOBY from the depths of my Random House tote bag. Next up was the hour for which we had all been waiting. It has to be something good if a sign like this shows up, right?

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Reason to Believe

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