…’ats not balls…’ats sa Willie!

Those of you who have read the entirety of the Outlander series might recognize that my title is plagiarized from the dialogue of a very adorable young man getting an anatomy lesson from his father and grandfather.  Those of you who haven’t read the books don’t know what you’re missing.

Life’s pretty good on the ridge it seems and nowhere as hectic as my life has been of late.

Claire is enjoying the company of Murtaugh who’s treating her like a queen.  The two of them are so content in each other’s company and neither seems surprised to see a child squawking about leeches on his legs, despite the fact that they’re in the wilderness three miles from the nearest town.  She goes immediately into doctor mode and attends the boy.  Myself I would have least have asked how he got there before I gave him a lesson in the medical attributes of slugs.

Jamie, it seems, has developed a tolerance to the cold mountain air as he saws wood in an ensemble that in modern times would amount to nothing more than a pair of shorts and a wife-beater.   The chest hair and muscles aren’t lost on a very appreciative Lord John, who stammers around excuses for travelling hundreds of miles out of the way before blaming it on Willie.

Lord John looks at Jamie like he wants to eat him with a spoon, something that isn’t lost on Claire and Murtaugh.   Claire handles being slapped in the face with the sight of Jamie’s son rather well, but Murtaugh is another matter.   The old Highlander has a whole other reason to dislike John-Culloden and Ardsmuir forgotten, its all about the taxes now.  (Poor Murtaugh, he’d likely keel over dead if he got a look at my last tax return).   Dinner is tense despite the forced pleasantries and Willie’s abhorrence of an outside toilet.  You know how a lot of people have their best ideas sitting on the toilet.  Well it seems Willie has his while in route.  A Gaelic comment to the horses and Willie remembers the MacKenzie from his youth, but that was a long time ago and he’s a big boy now who doesn’t play with wooden snakes and pees outside.

Claire & Lord John’s first tête-à-tête is tense as well, still Claire does better than I probably would, at least she doesn’t scream at John to keep his grubby hands off her husband.  She’s sweet and supportive listening to Jamie gush over memories of his son.  Murtaugh is a different matter.  The godfather can’t fathom Jamie’s friendship with Lord John and Jamie’s seeming unconcern over the plight of his Scottish brethren until the canny grey fox figures it out.   Murtaugh’s demeanor when he asks about Willie’s mother makes me think he wouldn’t be surprised to find out she lived in a molly house.  Maybe he’s just pissed off that Jamie & Claire are sleeping in a lean-to while Lord John and the young Earl take the house.  That part bothered me too, simply because the Lord John of the book would have never have stood to “discommode” Jamie and Claire so.

Lord John gets the measles…which gives Jamie the opportunity for some time alone with his son.  The kids definitely got the Fraser stubbornness and I have to say, he’s a far more convincing spawn of our Laird than the young man in season 2.   Willie is impressed with the grandeur of America, Jamie is impressed with his son.  In the course of vignettes through the gorgeous countryside, Jamie reminds Willie of their time together ….and Willie begins to remember.  The two begin to bond and Willie kills his first tear while at his true father’s side, a rite of passage even by today’s standards.  Like every other boy, Willie flouts the rules and crosses into Indian territory causing a ruckus.  Like any good father, Jamie takes the blame and offers himself with a truth that won’t matter any longer.  Willie however proves just exactly how much of Jamie Fraser’s blood courses through is veins.   Does Willie believe Jamie’s words about his paternity.  Not in the least, but Willie does remember Mack, his Mack and the love and devotion Jamie showed him all those long days ago.   Even in heartbreak Jamie finds peace in this because through Willie’s actions, we see what a wonderful father John has been to him.  This time at farewell, it’s Jamie that takes a tentative step after his son, only to be rewarded with a look of hope for the future.

Despite Willie being a child of what was tantamount to Jamie’s rape, Jamie’s unabashed delight at his son was sweet and sad at the same time.  This is the only child Jamie believes he will ever know even though he may never call Willie his own.  I wish the writers would have shown up some of the heartbreak Claire must have been feeling over the knowledge that Jamie would never meet his daughter.

Now let me get to my favorite part of the episode – the scenes between Claire and Lord John.  I will say, the Outlander writers had a far more eloquent way of Claire asking John how he kept a wife happy without bedding her and John’s even more eloquent way of saying “I did bed her and she never had any complaints!”.  John calls Claire on her crap.  Claire counters that she too raised Jamie’s child and reminds John that he British robbed her and Jamie of raising Brianna together.  Claire turns right around and calls John on his crap as well.  She doesn’t buy for one second John’s excuse of bringing Willie so Jamie can see him.

John’s sicker in round 2 and therefore not as guarded.  John still loves Jamie and admits they came for himself.  When Claire touts him of the physical love she and Jamie have that John cannot, John’s right quick to tell Claire that he could have had it

if he wanted it, but that it was HIS character and not Jamie’s that won out in that situation.  Claire doesn’t handle this revelation well, but it does make stop looking John like he’s got a rainbow spouting out of his forehead.   They finally find common ground through their love for the same man and this time they part as friends with Claire’s fond wish that one day, John will get his world rocked like Jamie rocks hers. (I couldn’t help but think about Echo in the Bone book readers!)

With the house finally empty, perfect time to take a bath isn’t it?  Does anyone know here I can buy a Jamie shaped sponge??  No seriously, what a perfectly romantic way to reaffirm their love and commitment to each other after the result Jamie’s romp with another woman was shoved in their faces.   Though not exactly like the book, the ring, quote and following nookie had only one flaw…it was too damn short, they should have at least let us watch them count to at least 200!  It looks like its Roger and Bree flying solo next week, so I’ll assuage missing Jamie & Claire by imaging all the ways they counted to 1000!

SPOILER WARNING FOR NON-BOOK READERS….DON’T VENTURE PAST THIS POINT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED!!

I know some people didn’t like Jamie’s joy in his son.  It didn’t bother me much because like I said, as far as Jamie knows, this is the only child of his blood he will ever know.  I like to think Willie gets a double dose since Brianna isn’t around for Jamie to lavish love on.   Now with that said, let me add that I hope someone had the good sense to learn from their mistakes in last years print shop scene and made sure we see some good old-fashioned blubbering, snot crying from Jamie Fraser when he meets his daughter!  If Jamie can love a product of rape that much…can you imagine how he will feel meeting the physical manifestation of his and Claire’s love.   I tear up every time I think about it and I just hope the show does it justice.   If anyone that reads this knows Sam Heughan…you might warn him, I’m going to be PISSED if I don’t see some snot-crying when he meets his daughter…and I’m not the only one.

Image result for man crying with snot cartoon

One last note:  Cynthia Gentit, my heart breaks you didn’t get to hear your favorite line…. “What news from the underworld Persephone!”   I could try and console you with a mention that at least the episode title card alluded to that scene, but since they used a snake that I’m fairly certain didn’t exist in North America at that time…I’ll just say I’m sorry.

 

Old Friends and New Adventures…that and Lord Johns is on my sh*t-list.

I don’t know about ya’ll, but I’m a little pissed at Lord John Gray.   He claims to love Jamie, so much that he’ll deny his true nature and be a faithful husband for the sake of Jamie’s son but he let Jamie’s godfather be indentured….to a meanie for all that.   Still he does get the measles next week and Murtaugh looked awfully good this week, so while I’m miffed Lord John didn’t make sure this important person in Jamie’s life didn’t get a cushy indenture, I’ll get over it.

It was a good show.

I loved the scenery at the start (I have a creek by my house that could be that one’s twin), Claire learning at the shaman’s feet despite the awkwardness of  language.  I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I come from a long line of “white women”.  My father’s family springs from an Irish/Scottish indentured lass finding love with a Cherokee Indian medicine man in the years after the Revolutionary War.  I’ve seen the line of my grandmother’s mentioned more than once in tales of the Appalachia mountains.  My granny carried on the tradition.  I was fifteen before I knew cough medicine wasn’t made from moonshine, honey, lemon ginger and willow bark and that you could buy it.  While my granny never told me someone from the future was back to visit me…there was more than a few times when the soundtrack to the Twilight Zone played in my head while in her presence.  The old Indian woman’s the real deal, from her knowledge that Claire is different and powerful to her words that Bree exists in the 18th century and not just in her mother’s heart.

The Fraser’s cabin is done…and a damn sight better looking that what I imagined based on the book.  It looks like Jamie & Claire have settled in to housekeeping with Claire having to keep up with everything like most wives do cause just like pretty much every husband, Jamie can’t find sh*t.  I’m not ashamed to admit, I squealed with excitement at the mention and sight of the white sow.  Dream on Ian, that bacon will be a long time coming!  Claire is content and happy, a life with Jamie with an outlet to practice her healing is all she’s ever wanted.  Jamie though, he wants more and he and Ian set off to find settlers to build the Fraser’s Ridge of Jamie’s imagination, but not before Jamie tells Claire of a another dream-that of their daughter that makes us wonder if he’s not got a little shaman magic of his own.

Back in Inverness Roger has arrived trying to find his lady love but it seems more and more likely than Brianna might have headed to the stones (I’m sorry, but if I was Roger, it would have been the first thing I would have thought of).  Roger’s beside himself, possibly because he feels that if Brianna has traveled to the past, she’s lost to him forever.  Little does he know!

The sound of a baby crying should bring joy, but this time it’s a siren of doom.   The Mueller’s are a close-knit, loving family who have already known heartache.   Representative of so many poor souls that came to doom while only trying to find a better life, made all the sadder by the fact that it was Gerhart himself who brought the disease that caused his families downfall in the guileless form of a toy for the new baby.  How many times has violence erupted simply because of fear and ignorance?   Mueller believes the Cherokee are savages who cursed his water and killed his kin so he is honor bound to seek revenge, even on innocent souls too old to defend themselves.  I don’t know who my heart ached more for the Mueller’s or the Cherokee.

Claire’s empathy and independence slowly erodes and the fears of her situation slowly sink in through long nights alone in the cabin.  Her joy and contentment morph into nervousness and heartache so much so that she breaks into what awful stuff passes for whiskey to settle her nerves.  It’s true the Cherokee afford her some measure of respect and protection as the wife of the “bear-killer”, but those who appear savage to most are not the ones she needs to fear.  Mueller isn’t a bad man- he’s a good man who loves his family and comes to Claire not in revenge but out of affection and his desire to protect her.  Mueller’s gift of gratitude is one of horror for Claire as she recognizes what Mueller has done in his mis-guided righteousness and that true savagery knows no color.

Woolam’s Creek was a lot busier than I imagined it would be, full of men women and horny floozies (ya’ll know who I’m talking about!).   Jamie and Ian are dumbfounded that men would turn down the offer of free land and our would-be laird gets his first inkling that perhaps the Governor isn’t as generous as he pretends.

When the horses’ bit breaks (I swear my first thought was that the floozie silversmith’s wife did it so Jamie would have to hang around.   Outlander writers are setting something up here, I just can’t figure what yet.)  Ian’s dealings with the blacksmith brings Jamie’s ire and a confrontation with a voice that sends cold chills up my spine.  Murtaugh.   He’s fleeced Ian to the point that I laughed out loud… laughter that turned to tears at the moment when Jamie and his godfather get their first sight of each other after twenty years.  Murtaugh’s joy at hearing of Claire and Brianna garnered another tear, as did Jamie playing the proud father.    It wasn’t what I speculated the writers would do with this resurrected character, but I loved every minute of it, right down to Ian calling him an “old coot”.     Murtaugh might have come to America as a slave, but he’s his own man, a successful one who has once again taken a stand against British tyranny…I can’t wait till he finds out he’s on the winning side this time.  Murtaugh’s desire for freedom is a cross-purpose with Jamie’s promise to the Governor, but I have a feeling the two men won’t be on opposite sides for long.

That brings me to the candlestick…as close to a handed down mother’s ring as Jamie could get as a friend said.  To me the ring being make by Murtaugh’ makes it all the more special and I can’t wait for the scene when Jamie places it on Claire’s finger.  For that final reunion, having Murtaugh whistle the song he and Claire performed while searching for Jamie was the perfect callback to the time they bonded and the reunion was bittersweet, pulling forth another tear or two.

Finally, we have Roger reading a letter received one year too soon.   Brianna meant to come back to him, but knew there was a possibility she could not.  Finally, we see what most of us suspected all along, Brianna in a store-bought costume raising her hands in a supplication to the stones that merge her past and future.  Brianna is afraid, but spurred onward with courage borne of the desire to save her parents from an awful fate.  It’s amazing what love can conjure sometimes to inspire and create, but often to destroy.  In this week’s Outlander, we got a taste of both.

Lions and tigers but no bears, oh my!

Late blog this week, but with the holiday, decorating for Christmas and starting my new job, time just got away from me.  It’s short but sweet, just a few thoughts from this week’s episode.

It started out good…Jamie signing the acceptance of the governor’s land grant which is something I always thought was left- out in the books.   Fergus is going to hunt of Scottish settlers for Jamie while Jamie and Ian build Fergus and Marsali their new home.   Then we get that sweet scene with Marsali and Claire.   It does worry me that that scene might be setting something up in the near future.  Note to the Outlander show runners…if Laoghaire shows in America, that screaming you hear is me!

After that off we go to the ridge.   I loved the scenes of Jamie building a home for his family with young Ian right at his side.  Claire does her part too, but there is something our 18th century wonder woman can’t do.   The knitting scene is far different than in the book, but it was well done and a rare moment of brevity.

Before the season began, even before I put out my guesses as to what each episode would hold, I predicted two things-that Claire would be far more abhorrent to slavery than in the books and that he Indians would be more dangerous.  Called those two!!  I guess the writers need to ramp up the drama somehow.   Speaking of the Native Americans…weren’t they gorgeous!!!   Kudos to Terry Dresbach once again, her genius will be missed in future seasons.   I just wish casting had some of her brain when it came to the Ridge’s neighbor John Quincy Meyers (yes, I am going to bitch about him all season!)

Raise your hand if you thought news of the Fraser’s would be found in that book Brianna gave Roger!   I’m really starting to like Roger and Bree, the silliness of their early relationship that didn’t set too well with me has segue waded into a more mature relationship.  Roger wears his heart on his sleeve and I know while something Brianna didn’t have much of a reaction when finding out about her parents, I thought Sophie opted to play the shock of the moment instead of excitement.  I think my single favorite moment of the show was Roger’s voice as he read about the Ridge overlaid with scenes of Jamie and Claire working to build a home.

Back to the Ridge and on my gosh…there’s a bear out there somewhere!  The build-up to the epic-much loved bear fight was great…then it kind of went to hell in a hand-basket. The bear fight reinvented?   How about the bear fight being done the stupidest, laziest way possibly?  I don’t buy for one freaking minute that the production team couldn’t have gotten a trained bear…. HUNDREDS of Scottish/British produced shows have done it before.  I’m sorry, but as my friend Denise so eloquently put it, they used to have Ellie Mae Clampett wrestle bears all the time.   With some creative editing, costuming, green screen and movie magic we could have too, but the writers took the easy way out trying to sell it as a “surprise” for the book readers.   I guess we can take heart that Clare “mentioned” the trout.  I will say one thing about this weeks “bear” battle, at least we had Jamie owning the camera throughout the scene and his fight didn’t take second place to Claire saving Meyers.

Finally, we find that it was Fiona who found the notice of the fire.  Another rather bad twist writers and to prove it here’s a question for you.   We know Fiona’s was somebody who believed Claire’s story, knew of her love for Jamie and that she carried his child, so don’t you think if Mrs. Graham had found any evidence that Claire traveled once again  to the past, she would have sent Claire a copy, or at least told her about it??  Continuity writers…. continuity.  And speaking of continuity, would it have killed you to have Jamie look at Claire’s butt at least once when she had on those pants??

You know what I don’t get about TV adaptions.  They always think they have to change the book to “keep the readers on their toes”.  When are writers going to get it through their heads that we readers don’t need things changed up?   We don’t need to be surprised (certainly we don’t need to be surprised by some half-rate story or character change, sorry, I’m still on my John Quincy Meyers rant).  Just like with Harry Potter and every Jane Austen movie ever made, we readers get our joy from seeing the faces and scenes from books we love played out on screen.  Do I have hope the Outlander writers will get a clue?  Well with a supposed to be dead Murtaugh showing up in the next couple of episodes, I’m not going to hold my breath.

 

The Minister’s cat is a….

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I’d never really bought Rik Rankin as Roger…until tonight, but more on that later.

First up, Fiona!!!!  Isn’t she a cutie.  Is it just me or despite egging Roger on about Brianna and her finance being upstairs toting salt and champagne to bless their new home, Fiona would climb Roger like a tree if she thought she had a chance at more than friendship with him.

Segue waying from adorable girls we move on to women two hundred years back in time.   The scenes between Jocasta and Jamie were poignant.   An aging woman all alone with her only hope of family leaving because of a way of life she cannot fathom is wrong.  The Outlander napalm is back in good form, it didn’t have to fall to do damage, only sit and shimmer in the eyes of a man who once again has to tell family, a mother figure at that, good-bye.

Speaking of men, I’m so in love with young Ian I can hardly stand it.  Still too young to realize just how much he doesn’t know, he leaps into manhood with the most terrifying of tasks…writing a letter to his mother telling her he’s not coming home.  Does Jamie think Ian’s a man?   I think it’s more likely Jamie thinks it would be easier to wrestle an alligator than make young Ian go home.

That brings us to Claire.  I loved it when Jocasta called Claire out on how she holds Jamie back.  I think Claire’s temper rises because she knows the mistress of River Run is correct.   Yet Claire still pushes forth with the plan to sequester Jamie behind a printer and sets off for Woolam’s Creek with the awfully cast John Quincy Meyers and the wonderfully cast Clarence while a forlorn Jocasta looks on.

We skip 200 years to the future to travel of another kind – a road trip with American chips and chocolate malts and a rousing rendition of “The Minister’s Cat” that had me pulling out the dictionary more than once.    Roger and Brianna are following the same path trying to find themselves as a couple as her parents traveled trying to find their home.  Brianna thinks Roger’s pretty, even with ketchup on his cheek and Claire’s daughter is every bit as forward as her mother when it comes to matters of the heart.

Another foray to the past and instead of Dairy Queen, Jamie, Claire and Young Ian are being fed tales of the native Tuscarora and Cherokee.   I couldn’t enjoy this segment thinking how much more entertaining it would have been if Meyers had been cast correctly and didn’t sound like my college Art History professor.  Ian is impressed at Meyers prowess with Indian women, excited about the fact that Cherokee women decide who they bed and marry.  Foreshadowing perhaps?

I loved watching Jamie as they traveled along.  Last week, we saw him defer to Claire’s upset over slavery, but as he traveled along, his head was held just a little higher, his shoulders squared and determined.  Despite Claire’s misgivings, Jamie is falling in love the majesty that is America.  His mention of Woolam’s Creek as they sit around the campfire holds the slightest dread and he ponders whether Claire wouldn’t be happier somewhere she knew better.  Claire wants them to make a home together and the two set out while miscast John Quincy takes Ian on to introduce him to the ways of Cherokee gals.  They talk of their daughter and the man that raised her, which raises a storm and a playful mention of the reunion night Jamie and Claire spend in a brothel.  As they stop to tend to the horses, for the first time this season Claire asks Jamie what he wants.  Does he love printing?  No, but he’d do it to make her happy.  This leads to one of the most favored lines in all of Outlander.  No wonder Jamie’s shoulders are so broad and strong, he carries a lot on them.   Personally, I’m glad I don’t have to think of Jamie laid to rest under a tree with the raccoons gnawing off his toes.   As so often with our erstwhile couple, a precious moment ends with Claire heading off to do something stupid.

Back in the future, Brianna is starting to understand what her mother saw in a Highland warrior.  We see the young couple having a day of fun and dancing with numerous off-handed mentions as fate tries to clue Brianna in on the fact that Roger’s a catch.   When Roger serenades Brianna, Sophie Skelton does the best acting I’ve seen to date as you watch as she falls more under the Mackenzie’s spell.  After the goodnight kiss, who can blame Brianna for wanting to hold on to the moment?  Anybody else think Jamie and Claire will show up in that book she gave Roger instead of a newspaper?

Roger is shocked but elated when the blouse hits the deer’s antlers and their rather clumsy drop to the rug reminded me of Brianna’s parent’s wedding night, or the reunion night 20 years later when passion and smooth moves don’t always go together.  Roger puts the breaks on because he’s in love and wants marriage or nothing at all.  Brianna is a modern woman and of a different mind.  She grew up feeling the effects of a loveless marriage and is skittish of the home and wee Mackenzie’s of which Roger waxes rhapsodic.

Then the fight begins and this is the moment that Rik Rankin became Roger Mackenzie for me.  The pain that brought me to tears while reading the books was so eloquently portrayed by him that I found myself reaching for the tissues.  The moment during the calling of the clans, when Roger hoped to be announcing his dreams for the future was sad and poignant as he realized he was alone.  I hope Brianna didn’t strand him at the gathering, although I’m sure neither of them looked forward to that long silent drive back to Boston.

Back in the past Clarence shows up sans Claire…seriously why was Jamie surprised?  Soon the deluge begins and Jamie’s riding around in the rain and dark, finding spooked horses and trying to make his screams for Claire rise above the thunder.  Claire meanwhile has found a skull and being the doctor that she is, all thoughts of survival and howling wolves are forgotten while examining the bones.  A light in the darkness isn’t Jamie…is it an Indian or a ghost?  With the same hatchet mark in the back of his head as the skull, I’m going with ghost.

Claire’ finding the skull and ghost Indian comes a lot sooner and in a far different scenario than the book, but I liked it.  I will say though that if I heard wolves howling in the distance, I’d be dumping the skull and hightailing my butt up a tree.   Did the Indian wear Claire’s shoes and stomp around the forest in order to lead her to safety?   Pretty lucky the ghost and Claire wore the same size shoe huh?  Jamie doesn’t seem surprised to her tales of ghosts, neither does he seem surprised that the skull belongs to someone like Claire, he’s just happy to have her back.  On a slightly more supernatural note, did anyone else feel like the ghost Indian set Jamie and Claire on the path to the ridge?

Then comes the moment we’ve all been waiting for…the discovery of strawberries and all that it means.  Jamie is besotted with the beauty of the land (despite that awful composite of three very distinct and very separate landscapes.  Really what’s going on with the green screens this year?) and Claire, perhaps listening to the echo of Jocasta’s words decides to push aside her fears of the future and stands beside Jamie as he embraces something more than begin sequestered behind a printing press.   We’ll call it Fraser’s Ridge.   Welcome home Jamie & Claire.

 

 

 

Do no harm…just better casting!

We’re back……………..

I didn’t do a blog for the first episode, thanks to those of you who missed me.  Honestly, I was one of the lucky ones who attended the premiere in Savannah and when it got to the point where I could do a blog and not spoil the heck out of things, I’d moved on creatively.   Us writers can be and odd bunch sometimes.   But I can’t let the first episode go by without saying two words:

Steven Bonnet!

I wasn’t sure how Ed Speelers would do as this season’s baddie.  The only experience I had with him was Downton Abbey and while he played an absolute douche on Abbey, it takes a lot of subtleties to pull off a psychopath like Bonnet.   Ed Speelers owned it.   He was the perfect amounts of charm and smarm.  As a book reader I knew he was a bad guy, yet I couldn’t help the catch in my breath and the shiver that went down my spine every time he hit the screen.   I do love the bad boys!

Image result for stephen bonnet

Now on to episode two….

In the aftermath of Bonnet’s attack, I found it odd that while Jamie lamented not being able to give his friend a proper burial, neither he nor Claire mentioned her missing ring.   In fact, the stolen trinket wasn’t alluded to at all in the episode.   Perhaps it was a scene left on the cutting room floor or the writers decided not to dwell on it, but to this viewer it was a very noticeable faux pas, especially after Claire’s words last episode.  Jamie’s really taking the blame for all this Bonnet stuff, my guess is that the writers are laying in the groundwork for him to be beside himself when he finds out about one of Bonnet’s later deeds.

I know a lot of people ooh and aah over Terry Dresbach’s costumes, but my favorite behind the scenes artist is Jon Gary Steele.   From the boat meandering up the river to the long approach shot as they arrived at River Run, the sets are perfection, with not a detail out of place. Hell, even the birds chirping sound like early morning at my house.

 

Meeting Jocasta was a wonderful moment and kudos to Sam for the expression of delight that played on his face recognizing his aunt’s resemblance to his mother, so startling that it stands in for Claire meeting his mother.

Our introduction to Jocasta was great, but I thought the show’s use of the “skunk incident” for brevity was poorly done.  John Bell is precious and I LOVE Rollo, but the scene would have played much better had the incident been played out and not recanted.

Now…and this is something I swear I thought I’d never say about Outlander, but the casting of John Quincy Myers is God-awful.  Instead of an American born and bred hillbilly, we get a dude that looks like he’s on sabbatical from his professorship at Oxford.  We’re supposed to believe that Ulysses speaks perfect non-accented English, but instead of “growing an extry” we’ll have to hear John Quincy lament about “having an odd addition to his undercarriage”.  Note to Outlander writers…by this period of time, there were 3rd and 4th generations of America’s original colonists and not all of them spoke with an accent.   John Quincy was one of my favorite secondary characters in the book, not so for the show, not at all.

Again, with casting, Farquad was a much older man, a contemporary of Jocasta’s and a life-long friend.   The show’s Farquad, gave me the inkling that he would end up being in league with Lieutenant Wolf.  It seemed Jocasta wanted Jamie to act as buffer for both  men.   Perhaps they cast a younger Farquad to make him more of an equal to Jamie.  It was an odd change in the character I thought and I’m curious where it might go.

I made two predictions regarding season four.  I suspected that to ramp up the drama, the writers would make slavery more of an issue and make the Indians more dangerous.   Based on this episode looks like I was right.   In the book, Claire was against slavery of course, but she didn’t act like being at River Run made her skin crawl.  In fact, she would have stayed had Jamie wanted to bend to Jocasta’s wishes.   Also, in the book, Claire held affection for Jocasta, despite the use of slaves at the plantation.  In the show, Claire was polite, but she mostly acted like she thought Jocasta was the devil himself.  I understand that in every slave’s face Claire sees her friend Joe Abernathy, but she was far more adaptable to the times in which she lived in the books.  I did love Jocasta’s little dig when she said Clair seemed “fair”-the 18th century’s version of calling her a dumb blonde.

It was a good move when Jocasta announced at the party that Jamie would be her heir.  In the book, when Jamie got wind of her intentions thanks to machinations from Ulysses, he and Claire went on a midnight boat ride to prevent the announcement.  I understand the writer’s motives, by having Jocasta make the announcement, it makes Jocasta and everyone else at River Run at risk of suffering from Jamie and Claire’s bad decisions.

Speaking of Claire’s bad decisions, did anyone doubt she’d tried to save the slave’s life.  She’s a doctor, its her calling after all.  In the story, having her work so hard to save his life only makes the latter decision to euthanize more poignant and heart-wrenching.  It was a heart-breaking scene, Jamie and Claire are trapped, trying to make the best of a horrible situation that despite their wishes, neither had the power to change.  I’ll admit I shed a tear or two, especially when Jamie hit his knees, praying not only for Rufus’s soul but that of his wife as well, whose hands hastened the slave’s soul onward.

This was a rough episode tacking a heinous subject.  All in all, I thought it was a pretty good episode, even though the moment when trying to save Rufus’s life had Claire screaming at the slaves as good as any overseer.  Her over the top hatred of slavery made Claire seem a tad hypocritical when she was ordering about the slaves, even if she was trying to save a life.

There’s a thing that happens to students in their fourth year both in high school and college, it’s called the “senior slump”.   It happens in TV shows too.  Like being a senior can make a young man or woman complacent, thinking they know everything, success can breed complacency and a mind-set that show-runners know best making them overlook the fan’s feedback and wishes.  Such a scenario nearly killed the Walking Dead and I can see hints that Outlander might be stricken with the same problem.   I read somewhere that most of the new scriptwriters haven’t read the book series.  I’m sorry, but if I was Ron Moore, it was be a contingency of employment.   The innate humor that draws us to Jamie and Claire was on full display in season one, not so much any longer.  Granted I know they’re older, but you don’t forget to laugh when you’re over forty!  Older Jamie and Claire’s ease and comfort with each other should yield more playful moments, hopefully we’ll see more as the season goes on.

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One last thing…I see a lot of people upset at the show for saying it makes “America” look bad.  Little news flash for you folks.  At the time Jamie and Claire have come to America, the colonies are STILL under British rule and subject to British law.  After the Revolution, several laws passed abolishing English slavery laws, but we’ll have to wait till seasons 9 or 10 to see how it the show handles that.   The British are still the big baddies for now and from the looks of things, that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.

Going to Extremes….

The Extremism of Outlander

 

So, I was sitting on the couch thinking the other day, and of course, Outlander comes to mind.  It started as a thought related to a thread on our group page but then went beyond.  Here is the gist:  Outlander is a study in the extremes of life.  Thought I’d jot down some thoughts – obviously, I can’t give examples of everything or I’d have a tome the size of the Big Books, so, please ignore omissions – they were consciously done and not overlooked.  My thoughts jump around from Diana’s descriptions to the visuals of the show – mainly the show for some and mainly the books for others.

 

Opulence and Humility – Throughout the Outlander series, we see Jamie and Claire in different settings and levels of wealth.  They go from the rough wild Scottish countryside, living by what they can hunt and cook over a campfire and sleeping on the ground with no shelter, to the relative luxury of Leoch with a roof and beds and meals cooked inside, not to mention the Rhenish and whisky. Then they go to Paris where the sheer majesty of Versailles is awe inspiring.  But even as they are amidst such splendor, we are reminded of the everyday, mundane functions common to all people regardless of station – who can forget the King’s constipation and Jamie’s suggested cure of parritch ? And Claire’s disappointment in Louise and her ladies for wanting to hide the less fortunate instead of helping them. (More on that later.)  Then we go back to Scotland and reunite with our earthy band of clansmen on the road.  The humble domains that they march upon take us back to the beginning and see our heroes part at Culloden.  When they meet again, it is in the prosperous city of Edinburgh. But not for long…After a brief visit to Lallybroch, they are once again thrown to humble surroundings aboard the Artemis.  Yes, it is shelter, but they can’t even have a cabin to themselves.  Plus, there are food and grog rations, and all crewmates are supposed to be treated equally as far as that goes.  As Super Cargo, Jamie could dine on better fare with the Captain, but alas, he is too seasick to enjoy that perk. When they finally arrive in Jamaica, they dive right back into luxurious surroundings at the Governor’s Ball.  Then they are thrust back onto ship and wreck in America with nothing but the clothes on their backs and whatever they can salvage from the wreckage.  Very humble indeed.  Throughout it all, they remain unchanged.  Jamie and Claire go through all these situations and places and interact with the high and the low, but they do not change their characters.  They remain true to their core beings.

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Side thought on “Costuming”:  As I describe all these journeys and surroundings, I think of the different clothes that all the characters wore.  Kudos to Terry Dresbach and her team for dressing Jamie, Claire, and all others on the show as real people.  Terry is a costume designer, but she is not creating costumes.  She is creating period clothing that would be comparable to what was actually worn.  This is much harder to do than many realize.  Researching patterns, textiles and societal/cultural norms of the time periods has ensured that what we see on the show is accurate.  To me, and I think to Terry as well, a good costume adds to the authenticity of a scene, but it is not the focus of the scene.  If it were the focus, it can take us out of the story. Even the Red Dress succeeds in this – it did not take me out of the story as it was a supposed to be over the top as described in the book. And it had to be eye-catching for Versailles.

 

Romantic and Familial Love and Hate – There are no things further apart yet as close together as love and hate.  Jamie and Claire see quite a bit of both in the series. Frank, Laoghaire, Dougal, Geillis, Colum, Murtagh, Black Jack Randall, and the Duke of Sandringham all come into play here.  I have a love/hate relationship with many of these characters.

  • At the beginning of the books, Frank is a model husband – maybe a bit boring, but a solid dependable man. And when Claire returns to him pregnant with another man’s child, he is stellar in his acceptance of her and the baby. This may or may not be swayed by the fact that we know that he has discovered his infertility while Claire was gone and this is his only chance at raising a child.  But then as the years go by, I start to dislike him.  He commands Claire to “forget” Jamie and never speak of him as a condition of his acceptance.  He belittles Claire’s passion for medicine – can’t she just be a lady who lunches like all the other professors’ wives? Then he is unfaithful to her…repeatedly.  Many people say that they understand and forgive this since Claire was not sleeping with him, but there really is no proof of that.  Diana does not mention Claire becoming celibate in the books – at least not until much later in their relationship. She does not describe all the times that they had sex, and I wouldn’t want to read it.  I am invested in Claire and Jamie so Claire and Frank seem like a betrayal even though it isn’t. Then Frank wants to basically steal Bree away from Claire.  That is unforgivable.

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  • What can we say about Laoghaire? I used to hate Laoghaire “damn her eyes” MacKenzie, but recently, I’ve come to understand her more.  When we first meet Laoghaire, she is a beautiful and mischievous teenager in the throes of intense puppy love for Jamie yet not above some “harmless necking” with some other boy.  We, the readers and watchers, know that Jamie does not care for her the same way, but she doesn’t.  Then Jamie saves her from public humiliation by taking her punishment for her.  And then he accepts his reward which appears to have been a necking session of his own.  Smitten as she is, she sees this as proof that Jamie loves her.  And he does nothing to discourage her!  When he talks of his marriage to Claire, he tells her of obligation not of affection.  I think Laoghaire truly thinks that Jamie loves her and is in a loveless marriage to Claire.  She’s only sixteen at this point – and as Murtagh says “she’ll still be a lass at forty” – she’ll never grow up and look at this with mature eyes.  It’s her immaturity and fervent belief in Jamie’s love that causes her to set Claire up for what happens at Crainsmuir. And she never gets over it.

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  • Let’s talk and Colum and Dougal The MacKenzie brothers have inherited their skill at manipulation and ruthlessness from their ancestors, and boy does it affect the way I feel about them. My first instinct is to like Colum – he is a man crippled by an unknown disease, yet he is a strong leader. He puts the interests of the clan first: he doesn’t support the Bonnie Prince as he knows that it is folly – he knows the English will win and that the punishment for the participants would be severe. But one of his strengths is also a weakness.  He does not allow emotion to cloud his judgment, but in doing so his ruthlessness is more pronounced. He allows – one might even say encourages – Claire’s imprisonment and trial for witchcraft.  He tells Claire she can leave Leoch and then reneges to have her stay as a healer. But in the end, I feel sorry for him and the pain that wracks his body and is happy that Claire could ease that.  Now, Dougal…what a man. We pretty much know that it was Dougal that hit Jamie in the head when he came back from France – he did not want Jamie to survive as he is a threat to Dougal being named the future Laird of the MacKenzie clan.  He marries Jamie off to Claire to suit this purpose.  The clan would not accept Jamie as Laird if he is married to an English woman.  Dougal is so fervent in his desire to have a Scot sit on the Scottish throne that he is blinded that the presumptive heir is not worthy.  I admire that Dougal is faithful to his cause, but dislike his methods in furthering it.

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  • Geillis Duncan aka Gillian Edgars aka Mrs. Abernathy aka the Bakra etc… Geillis was such a friend to Claire when she first showed up in 1743. I liked Geillis – she had a modern woman vibe so unlike the other women.  Of course, we get to know why later, but that early impression was friendly.  But then…she tries to drug Claire in order to question her; she kills her husband, Arthur Duncan, because he found out that she was pregnant and not by him; she obviously kills Mr. Abernathy in order to gain wealth; she uses and kills young boys looking for some ‘virgin stone’; and wants to go to the future to find the last of Lovat’s line all for the Scottish “cause”.  But…she saves Claire at Crainsmuir.  That counts for a lot, but this girl is cray cray!

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  • Murtagh – oh, Murtagh… He’s the cousin, companion, and – dare I say – lover, we would all want (if we can’t have Jamie, of course!) For all his outwardly bluster, Murtagh is a softie. He shows his love and respect for all our heroes by his actions.  He is Jamie’s right-hand man, sworn to protect him.  He is the clansman who rescues Claire from Black Jack right after she comes through the stones. He offers to marry poor Mary Hawkins, not out of affection for her, but out of a sense of honor. He does not want her ruined by having a child out of wedlock and not being able to care for it. He has his romp with Suzette and it shows how human he is. And when he hates, it is for a good, justified, solid reason.  The Duke and Black Jack beware!

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  • Let’s talk about the Duke of Sandringham and Black Jack Randall When I think of these two, I think of the extreme – hate.  But in truth, I really think that Black Jack is ruled not by hatred, but by his own warped sense of love.  He loves Jamie, and therefore must break him as BJR believes love to be a weakness that cannot be tolerated.  He loves his brother, and in the show, shows his frustration by beating Alex when he dies.  It is a shocking moment that Tobias ad-libbed, but it was a perfect manifestation of the character.  We really see the fine line between love and hate (hatred of self in this case) with Black Jack. Now, the Duke, I think, is just oblivious to anything other than what will benefit himself. He only loves himself. To him, the ends always justify the means.  He sets up the ambush on Mary and Claire, knowing rape would be the goal thinking that he is doing a good thing because Le Comte wanted Claire dead and surely rape was saving her.  Mary just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But he had absolutely no remorse over her rape even though he has been a close family friend and godfather to her.

 

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War and Peace – These polar opposites are represented well throughout the series.  We have the peace after World War II when Claire first arrives in Scotland with Frank.  Then Claire is thrust back into a time where the clans are not only fighting amongst themselves but also have skirmishes with the Red Coats. The results of one of these skirmishes are truly how Jamie and Claire meet.  Then when Jamie and Claire get to Paris, it is a time of peace for a while.  Sure, there is plenty of intrigue and espionage, but not war. We see war once again when they return to Scotland for the Jacobite exercise in futility that ends on Culloden Moor. Then twenty years later, after some battles amongst themselves, they are at peace again briefly.  They do battle with Geillis in Jamaica and escape the British, but these are no real wars. And when they settle on The Ridge, they are peace. And then comes the Regulation – the first real rumblings that will lead to the Revolution.  Jamie and Claire can’t seem to escape conflict and war, but they do have plenty of peaceful happy times as well.

 

Intelligence and Ignorance – We all know that Jamie and Claire are well-educated people.  Jamie was educated in France and knows at least five languages that I can think of: Gaelic, English, French, Chinese, and Latin.  He has great recall for anything he has read.  Claire is much the same way – she went to medical school at a time when women were just not doing that.  She quotes many authors to Jamie, including Robert Burns. I was always amazed at how much she knew as a nurse when she first went back.  There is a mention of her interest in botany and medicinal herbs, but her knowledge blew me away. In contrast, there are plenty of people in the series that could be classified as ignorant. Ignorance doesn’t mean that they are not smart, just that they are not educated.  For me, both Jenny and Ian come to mind here.  Neither of these characters are educated, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are highly intelligent.

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Common Sense and Naiveté – In many ways, Louise de Rohan reminds me of Marie Antoinette in her naiveté. Marie, the Queen of France, was brought up as a sheltered Austrian princess and then married to King Louis XVI.  She had no concept of poverty.  Her most famous attributed quote (although she actually didn’t say it) of “Let them eat cake” was woefully misconstrued.  She was so sheltered that when told that people didn’t have any bread to eat, her response was to tell them to eat cake as surely they had cake, if they didn’t have bread.  She was naïve of the world. Louise strikes me much the same way.  She is aware of the poor peasants, but I don’t think she really understands their plight.  Her solution of moving them to the other side of the city where the nobility would not have to see them is very naïve. Politicians still try to do this today. Out of sight, out of mind. We find her lover, our Bonnie Prince Charlie, much in the same situation.  He has been brought up in the Vatican, continually told that his family are the rightful rulers of Scotland and completely sheltered from the real world.  Yes, he is arrogant as most royals of the time were, but he is also naïve. He truly believes that the clans will flock to him and that they will win against the mighty British without any real resources or weapons or trained army. The clans could hardly agree on whether it was day or night, much less agree to fight together for a monarch that none of them had ever seen.  They may have wanted to be free of the British, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they wanted a replacement in the form of James or Charlie.  And “Mark Me”, he truly thinks everything that he has to say is remarkable and worthy of taking note – which is what that phrase means.  Contrast these two against Jenny.  Even though Jenny has never been more than 10 miles from Lallybroch, she knows how the world works and the practicalities of life.  This may be due to being poorer than Louis or Charlie, but then again she was the mistress of LallyBroch for quite a while. Of course, part of this is because she was not sheltered in her formative years.  She had to learn how to be a mother when her own mother died.  She had to learn how to deal with the Red Coats both before and after her father died.

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So…I’ve given some examples of extremes.  There are plenty more, but it would take a much lengthier blog and better blogger to write about them. Diana has woven such a magnificent story that we could (and do) discuss for quite some time and find something new with each discussion.  And what do the members of our clan have to say about this?

Meeting Herself

by Cynthia Gentit

Meeting Herself.  If you are a true Outlander fan that two-word sentence needs no further explanation.  This is the story of how one fan girl checked “meet Diana” off her bucket list.

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For the sake of those not familiar with Outlander or you’re not familiar with the title “Herself,” I’ll elaborate.  “Herself” is the name Outlander fans have given Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series (presently 8 “Big Books” and several shorter novellas.)  “Herself” is a twist on “Himself,” one of the many names given to Diana’s lead character, Jamie Fraser.   Diana introduced us to “the man in the kilt” and his time traveling wife, Claire Randall, in her first novel – Outlander (1991.)  Claire fell through the stones and into his arms – where her heart (and ours) has securely rested ever since.

Being of recent Scottish Highland descent myself, Outlander is my history, present, and past.  When Jamie described Ned Gowan as “beaming red” it was like a getting a hug from my grandmother, every time I watch it or just thinking of it now gives me the warm fuzzies.  So when the opportunity to meet Herself, the woman from whose brain all these wonderful tales have sprung arose, aye lassie, ye can bet your dirk not even a herd of Hieland coos could have stopped me from trying.

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Diana 3In December it was announced that Diana would be the keynote speaker at the Savannah Book Fair, Feb. 15th.  Within my favorite circle of Outlander fans, the Outlander Sassenach Sisterhood plans were made.  Excitement was high.  Calendars were marked.

Over the next few weeks more information was shared, this was one of two speaking engagements Diana would do in 2018….she was in Savannah to do research for book 9….the theater only holds 1100 people…. and then, (gasp) book club members would be able to pre-buy tickets – only 200 – 300 would be available to the general public – aka, us…it was every woman for herself….

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January 9th the ticket page was bookmarked and January 10th, at 9:59am, I clicked on that page and wonder of wonders – I got through!  Two tickets, one for me, one for hubby (he’s also read the books and watches the show.)  Few were able to get tickets, so disappointed for them but in fact, it was random luck, all tickets available were sold in 3 minutes flat and after that, the site crashed.  Outlander fans are serious about their adoration folks.

Fast forward to the 15th, all tickets are general which means no assigned seats and arriving well before the 6pm engagement time.  The lucky members of our group were in line by 4 and already there was a lot of activity going on.  Lines were set up outside the theater – one for book fair ticket holders, one for the general admission folks and one short one right in front for the sponsors.

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We were able to find out a few crucial things – first, doors would open to us at 5:15.  To the left, we could buy books for Herself to sign and to the right, seating.  Now the trick to this is that every book purchased comes with an incremental number and that number is the order in which you get the book signed – so the conundrum is, the earlier you buy your book, the earlier you get it signed but if you buy your book first then you miss out on the opportunity for a good seat and vice versa.  But the Sassenach Sisters are canty lassies, we decided to divide and conquer.  Four of us would buy all the books wanted and four of us would grab the best seats we could.  And we did.

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We were able to get seats in the very back row of the main floor.  Now that may not sound very good but only the last 3 rows of the main floor and the balcony were available for us “generals” so we actually did quite well and we were in the first third of the book signing – yay us.

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About 40 minutes later the auditorium was full and the big moment arrived.  We were welcomed by a gentleman from the Book Fair.  He said he would have worn a kilt in Diana’s honor but he was “not as tall as Jamie Fraser and kilts on a short man look like a Catholic school girl in a bad uniform.”  After that, another gentleman came out and introduced Herself.  It was rather a long introduction but being that many in the audience knew nothing about her or Outlander I could understand it.  My husband was grumbling because he pronounced Murtagh as Mur-taw instead of Murta which made me laugh because 2 years ago he wouldn’t have known the difference. ;D

Finally, Herself, live and present on the stage, yup, we were sharing the same airspace and the atmosphere was heady.  After a warm round of applause she began by explaining how she came to choose her subject – Jamie Fraser – and the era – 1740’s based on an old Dr. Who rerun.  She said in English class the only worthwhile thing she learned was that a good story should always have conflict (she also said that tidbit wasn’t worth the 18 hours she spent in English class – lol.)  It was to introduce conflict that she decided to add an English woman into the story and, originally, she was not to be from a different era but as Diana was visualizing her, “she simply wouldn’t stop speaking in modern vernacular no matter how I tried to beat her into shape.”  And that was how the time travel aspect came to be. 😀  Fellow Sassenach Sister Michelle Miller was intrigued by her writing process.   “Diane says that the process is very much like what she was used to in her scientific research – that in science, you make a hypothesis and then experiment to prove or disprove it. In writing, the book is the experiment. Pretty cool…”  It is indeed, pretty cool.

diana 8  I won’t go into great detail about the speech because it will probably be put online shortly.  She spoke for about an hour and, based on what she said, went a bit over time so the question and answer period were very short.  Half of them weren’t worth repeating but the two I remember as being “good” questions were: “Name one thing that’s in Bree’s bag,” which is a reference to book 9 if you haven’t gotten that far and the answer was “a book.”  Not terribly explicit but if you read Diana’s daily lines you’ll know exactly which book it is. ;D  The second was “Do you have research assistants?”  I found her answer to be typical Diana.  She said if she sent her husband to the store for hotdogs and beans for dinner that’s what she’d get but if SHE went to the store for hotdogs and beans she’d see some nice chicken breasts and say “oh, curried chicken would be nice,” and then it would be “well, what spices do I need, how about a side dish and by the way I should pick up a nice bottle of white wine.”  Her analogy being if she had a research assistant all she would get was hotdogs and beans and usually, chicken curry is a lot better so no, she doesn’t use research assistants.

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She finished to loud and appreciative applause and, once the room had cleared, the book signing began.  A table was set up for Herself in front of the stage and aides sprang up with signs 1-25, 26 – 50, etc. and we were asked to line up according to our book numbers.   I have to say the event was extremely well run from start to finish.  For example, while we were standing in line an aide came along with post its and marked every book with the name of who it was to be inscribed to so it was very easy and efficient for Diana.

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Now standing in line twice in one evening may not sound like fun but when you are standing in line with Outlander fans it is!  The lady in front of me was a lucky lady with a great story – she met Sam Heughan in her local grocery store!  Hearing about her experience firsthand was so.much.fun!  Like everyone else she said he was extraordinarily kind, he realized from across the produce section that he was dealing with a fan, gave her a smile and walked right over – swoon.  Here’s her tip, always carry a Sharpie! 😀  Her biggest regret was that she had nothing to write with and couldn’t get his autograph.  Now she always has a marker in her purse and multiples in her car because – you never know!, ;D  And of course, everything she was shopping for went right out of her mind (small wonder) and she came home minus half the ingredients she set out to buy – I guess she had hot dogs & beans instead of curried chicken that night!  What a great story.

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The two ladies behind me had been to an Outlander convention and had met Grant O’Rourke (Rupert) and Scott Kyle (Ross) and they were delighted to blether on aboot it, complete with pictures.  I was so engrossed in their tales that the time just flew by!  In fact before I knew it, it was my turn and I was feeling fair puckled.  I had been asked to give her a small gift from our Sisterhood and much like the lady in the grocery store I was trying to run through what I wanted to say to her lest I be a total Numptie!   The gift was one of our group t-shirts, a few small items, and a diet Coke.  (She drinks them while she’s writing and we definitely want to encourage her to continue on book 9!!)  Then it was my turn, I gave my phone to the assigned picture taker and plunged in.

 

I don’t diana 12remember what I said but I think I managed not to embarrass myself.  Diana gave me a big smile when I told her there was a diet Coke in the bag – lol.  Not only was I able to get my picture with her but we were able to get a quick group picture as well.  Many thanks to the event runners and Herself for their patient indulgence!

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And then, it was over, we all had our signed books, photos, grins from ear to ear and plenty of “ahhhhh” sighs as we thought back on our moment with Herself.  In fact, I’m still grinning.  I hope you enjoyed the journey and if ever you have the opportunity to meet Herself, I can only say gie it laldy and go!