What we learned from Carina Contini

Last week we were doubly privileged to get a visit from Scottish restaurateur Carina Contini, who not only imparted her wisdom and culinary knowledge over the course of an hour, but also very generously gifted every library in Edinburgh a copy of her Scottish Garden Cook Book. Thanks so much Carina!

Carina with copies of her book

Carina with copies of her book

Here are some things we learned from Carina:

  • We’ve all heard of endangered species but  there’s also an endangered foods list known as The Ark of Taste
  • The best black pudding comes from Carluke – not Stornoway!
  • One of Carina’s favourite recipes is for Baked Alsaka
  • Princes Street Gardens were used for allotments during the second world war
  • The building which houses the Contini Ristorante on George Street is a replica of a Florentine Palazzo
  • The restaurant changed its name from Centotre to Contini Ristorante to because its former title was too difficult for people to pronounce!

Craigmillar’s new Reading Champion “can’t wait to get started”

Claire Askew is Craigmillar Library’s brand new Reading Champion.

Claire’s appointment was announced yesterday as part of Book Week Scotland.

The residency at Craigmillar Library will aim to connect with the local area, engage with the people who live here and the stories they have to tell. We hope to encourage people to explore the library and become a springboard for creativity and ideas as well as encouraging life-long learning in the community.

Claire, who is a poet, writer and creative writing teacher, said, “I am so pleased to have been selected and I’m especially pleased that I’ll get to work alongside the brilliant team at Craigmillar Library. We’re hoping to engage the teens who come into the library and create a huge, collaborative, story-based role-playing game. We’ll also be asking adults who live in and around Craigmillar to get involved in some interactive story-telling and creative writing activities. I can’t wait to get started!”

Welcome to Book Week Scotland

It’s here folks. This is Book Week Scotland.

Every week’s a book week for us of course, but this is a special chance to celebrate with people all over the country, including some of our favourite authors.

If you’re lucky you might just grab one of the remaining tickets for our events with ‘The last act of love’ author Kathy Rentzenbrink, Ronnie Browne aka That Guy fae the Corries and Legend of Barney Thomson creator Douglas Lindsay. (If Douglas’ blog is anything to go by this event is sure to be a hoot)

There’s complete events listing on the Book Week Scotland site, along with a quote vote and  #thankbooks wall where you can post messages to the people and books who’ve inspired you on your reading journey.

And if you’re looking for the perfect book to read this week, we’d be delighted to help.

Happy Robert Louis Stevenson Day!


Every year on 13 November Edinburgh celebrates the birthday of one of our most famous literary sons.

Today and tomorrow libraries are hosting lots of free, family friendly events. Come along and join in the fun. We’ve pirate parties, treasure hunts and crafts galore. For a complete listing of  RLS Day events visit the Edinburgh City of Literature website.

Or visit the Writers’ Museum, just off the Royal Mile, to discover more about Robert Louis Stevenson’s remarkable life.

Among the wealth of amazing objects on display are photographs, artefacts illuminating Stevenson’s time in Samoa, as well as his ring, riding boots and first editions of some of his works. Explore the museum for free.

Tortoiseshell and silver 'Tusitala' ('storyteller') ring

Tortoiseshell and silver “Tusitala” (“storyteller”) ring

And to celebrate RLS day, the award-winning living history group, Edinburgh Living History, will entertain you in the Writers’ Museum. There are free performances at 1pm and 2pm today and tomorrow  (13 and 14 November) They will be performing dramatised readings from some of RLS’s works, particularly his short stories and poetry. No need to book, just come along on the day.

Verses first edition (3)

Fist edition of “A Child’s Garden of Verses”

Gavin Francis: Adventures in Human Being


We were delighted to welcome back award-winning author Gavin Francis to Central Library last night, who for our latest Edinburgh Reads event, took us on a journey round the wonder that is the human body.

We listened to two pulses in one, saw how the colon can be a thing of beauty and learned how the hip was once seen as the storehouse of life.


As you can see from these tweets, the audience loved it.

Join the waiting list to borrow Adventures in Human Being either as a book or an OverDrive eBook.

Gavin also recommends Do no harm by Henry Marsh and Kathleen Jamie’s Frissure.


Top 10 Robert Louis Stevenson quotations


The fan-tash-tic staff at Muirhouse Library are getting ready to celebrate Robert Louis Stevenson Day this Friday (13 November)

And to get you in the mood here are our top 10 RLS quotations:

Nothing like a little judicious levity.
The Wrong Box, 1889

All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer.
Reflections and remarks on human life, 1898

Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life.
The Lantern Bearers, 1882

Youth is wholly experimental.
Letter to a Young Gentleman, Scribner’s Magazine, 1888

The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.
Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers, 1881

It is a pleasant thing to be young, and have ten toes.
Treasure Island, 1883

All human beings are commingled out of good and evil.
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 1886

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
Treasure Island, 1883

The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to effect him precisely as you wish.
Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers, 1881

The man who forgets to be grateful has fallen asleep in life.
Letters, 1884

See a list of all RLSDay events taking place in Edinburgh on the Edinburgh City of Literature site.

Julian Sayarer – around the world on a bike

It’s not every day we get a world record breaker in one of our libraries, but that was the case yesterday when Julian Sayarer came to tell us how he cycled round the world in 169 days.

Julian started with the numbers – on his 18 000 mile round trip he averaged 110 miles a day, spending around 8 to 10 hours in the saddle. ‘A day’s work in a really wonderful office’ is how he described it.

Julian then went back to his childhood to tell us how his love of cycling had been forged when as an eleven year old he made the 20 mile round trip to his grandparents house. This escape from safety and routine sowed the seeds for a life of cycling and adventure.

As a teenager Julian was determined to become a professional cyclist, and fell in love with the stories, mythology and folklore of the sport.

It was a four-week ride from England to Istanbul, however, which opened his eyes to the possibilities of long distance cycling. He learned from a couple he met along the way about an attempt on the round-the-world record that had been backed by banks and big business. Seeing the bicycle and open road reduced to only a corporate marketing strategy, Julian resolved to do things his own way and to take back the record.

And so to his epic trip.

We learned about a wonderful cycle path along the Danube, the lack of personal space in China, the incredible hospitality of New Zealanders, how to cope with Romanian guard dogs and the ‘captivating emptiness’ of Kazakhstan.

All too soon our time was up. Thanks to Julian for coming to Edinburgh and giving such an inspiring and compelling talk.

Life Cycles, Julian’s account of his round the world trip, is available to borrow from your local library and as an OverDrive eBook.