Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Scotland - Day three

Well, today was not rainy, but it was still cold.  We started across the street at Deacon Brodie's Cafe for breakfast, then off to the train station to check things out for our little trip to Glasgow tomorrow.  It is farily straight forward, buy your ticket on the day of travel, trains to Glasgow Central station leave every 15 minutes, so should be pretty easy to catch a train.  We did look at the departure board on the way out and the next train to Glasgow had been cancelled, so there is that.  Tomorrow will tell.

Then it was off to the Museum of Scotland where we went thru the Ancient Scotland exhibit and met these little guys:

These are the Lewis Chess pieces, carved in the 12th century by the Norse people that populated Scotland.  I love their little faces.

We went from the beginning of Scotland to present day.  I will admit that I enjoyed the old stuff more than the current stuff.  They did have a loom that had these little cards on it that determine the pattern being woven.  They looked like punch cards from early computers.  If you do not know what that is, please leave my blog now and never come back.

Now you know why we are in Scotland, it is to see the band Texas.  My beloved's favorite band.  We see them Thursday in Glasgow - hence the trip to the train station - we see them on Friday here in Edinburgh and we saw them today at the museum.  They were one of the bands in a exhibit about television.  We were sitting there - for free - and on they come.  For my beloved it made the entire trip to the museum worth it.

On the 7th floor of the museum is a terrace with amazing views of Edinburgh.  Sounds like a great place to get some photo's, until you realize that you checked your coat down stairs so that you would not be too hot while roaming the museum.  It was cold, but man it was worth it:

The castle at dusk.

Again the castle at dusk.

The skyline.

After a quick dinner of pizza take away we went down to Prince's Street Garden where they are having a Christmas Faire.  There were wooden decorations, hot chocolate, a skating rink and a ferris wheel.

The gardens were all lit up

It was actually much warmer tonight that it was all day.  No wind, just lots of stairs.  We did want to push some young girls down the steps that were running up them.  It just seemed like the right thing to do, but we refrained since we don't have anyone here to visit us in prison.  So we climb back to Lady Stair Close and up to our little apartment on the Royal Mile and try to use the washing machine.  We followed all the directions and now we are just looking at it doing nothing.  Well either we will have clean jeans tomorrow or we won't.  I'll let you know.

Where in the world?

Last night as I layed in bed I started thinking about one of my favorite books of all time.  The Outlander series.  As you may or may not know, it takes place in Scotland.  Claire, Jamie, time travel, 18th century Scotland.  I don't know why I could not remember where Claire finds Jamie after returning to Scotland.  So I pulled out my trusty copy of Voyager, the third novel in the series.  After I thanked the computer gods for e-books - since if you know the series the books are close to 1,000 pages each and are difficult to carry around - and started looking it up.

Well, my friends, she finds him in Edinburgh.  A little print shop on Carfax Close.

After a little hunting, I determined there is no Carfax Close today, that does not mean there never was.  I read over a certain section of the book and started putting things together and Carfax Close was on the Royal Mile.  Jamie and Claire leave Carfax Close to go to The Worlds End pub (we had dinner there on Monday night) and the description is that they go down the Royal Mile.  Now I can only assume that this means the go towards Holyrood.  Since Edinburgh Castle is Up the Royal Mile.

They leave the pub and end up at a small close just UP from the Kirk of Canongate about a quarter mile above Holyrood Palace.

So I know the general area of Madame Jeanne's whore house and the location of Jamie's smuggling busines, which is housed in a underground cavern.  Hmm, sounds very familiar to what we saw on our tour last night.

So today, I will pay more attention and look for more things that are familiar to Jamie and Claire.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Scotland - Day two

Today we woke to a cold rain.  To those of you that have had broken bones know that in times of rain, your bones hurt and today was no exception.  Bones hurting be damned, off we go into the rain to Holyrood - the home of the Queen when she is in town.

We stop at St. Giles first - it is a church right across the street from where we are living.  It is a place where a lot of things happen.  We go into to look around and my beloved sees that there is a photography fee of two pounds.  Two pounds to take pictures?  Well, I guess they need the money, so I go up to the desk to pay my pounds and the woman at the desk says,

You can't take pictures during the service.  We have a service starting at noon, are you staying for it?


Well, then I won't sell you a ticket to take pictures since is two minutes of tweleve, and you won't have time to take pictures.  You should come back later.

So, we took a raincheck on St. Giles and started down the Royal Mile to HolyRood.

So back to the Queens place here in Edinburgh -

Holyrood is actually a place you can see people living.  I mean you go to Buckingham Palace or Windsor and they seem too big and impersonal, not Holyrood, I could actually picture people living here.  In fact, the Queens grandaughter, Zara Phillips was married here a couple of years ago.  Can you imagine planning your wedding and calling up your Gran to see if you can use her place in Edinburgh for the wedding?  Cool..

Anyway the place started as an abby

It was a place of sanctuary.  Did you know that having debt or being unable to repay your debt was a crime?  Well, it was and if you were wanted for debt you could take sanctuary here and nobody could arrest you while you were here - or on Sunday when you could go home to your family or wherever, because arresting people on Sunday was illegal.  Weird, but true.

James IV took the simple royal apartment at the abbey and turned it in to Holyrood, he did not get to spend anytime there, because he died a couple of days after it was complete.

So we again hear about Mary Queen of Scots, it was to Holyrood that she returned to after leaving France and coming home to Scotland.  At this time she was married for the second time to Henry Staurt, who depending on who you believe was either a patsy or a very jealous husband.  Seems for whatever reason, Henry lead an armed party into Mary's private chambers where at 6 months pregnant she was having diner with her ladies and her private secretary, David Rizzio.  The secretary was dragged out into the next room and stabbed 56 times and left dead on the floor.  Mary moved very quickly to the castle down the road - Edinburgh where she gave birth to the future James VI.  

I'm sure you can understand she was not very happy with her husband and when he turned up dead, not long after, people were sure she was involved and her quick marriage to her third husband, Lord of Bothwell did not endear her to anyone and she was soon arrested and forced to abdicate.

Like I have said previously being a Princess or Queen is not always a good thing.

Anyway, Holyrood was not always a happy place, but I still like it.

On the way back, we passed this

I assumed it was a newspaper of some sort, but no it is a museum of the people.  It sounds a little commie to me.  We did not go in, maybe another day.

On our way back up the Royal Mile in a close we saw this:

Now, I ask you, who could resist going closer to see what this was.  It was a kilt maker, what else could it be?  So we go in and start looking around and asking questions.  My beloved decided to order something and had to give her address.  They very Scottish guy tells us he used to sell kilts at the Highland Games in Pleasanton.  About this time another man walks in and they tell us they used to live in Hayward and had a shop in San Francisco.  Then they moved to Palm Springs.  This story was just getting gayer and gayer.  Do you know it takes 8 yards of fabric to make a mans kilt?  That real kilts are sewn by hand?  That it takes about a day to make them?  I was amazed, little tiny stitches, all the same, all perfect.  Amazing workmanship.  Did you know that not only clans have a special tarten?  States have them.  The Marine Corps have one.  It was a very interesting place and an art form that needs to be preserved.

I did ask why did the Scots start wearing kilts?  I mean really, it gets cold here.  Then we were told that the people that originally settled Scotland were Celts from the Alps and they wore skirt like things, so it was a small jump from that to a kilt.  And also, sometimes a plaid in the tarten was wrapped like a loin cloth under the kilt, I guess for those chilly Scottish nights.

We ended our day with a ghost tour!  Yes, no vacation would be complete without one.  This one was pretty good.  The guide was named Mark and it was an interactive tour.  I was used in a demonstration of the different hanging techniques used, I was a very good participant.  We went down and around the area around St. Giles - where the last person to be buried in the graveyard next to the church went in about 1560 or so.  Today the churchyard is a parking lot, unfortunately they did not move any of the bodies prior to tarring them over.  

Then we walked over to Advocates Close, where I learned some more information about close's.  They originally had gates at both ends that were locked at night to keep the occupants safe.  Learned that they were also dark and dirty places.  There is one thing that most of us don't think about when we imagine life in a medieval city.  What did they do with their poop?  Well, here in Edinburgh, it was collected in a big pot during the day and when the bells of St. Giles rang at 10:00 pm you could legally throw it out your window into whatever street or close was below you.  Yuck and be careful where you are at 10:00 at night.

Of course, there was the usual sickness, rats and plague.   It think you get the picture.  We should all be really thankful when we flush that toilet not to mention modern vaccinations.

We were taken to the vaults that exist under the South Bridge here in Edinburgh.  The South Bridge was not built over water, but over low lying land and under it vaults were built, the deepest - of which we were in - go down four stories under ground.  They were used for a number of things, workshops, storage, illegal things, etc.  They were emptied out and bricked up in the 1860's and stayed that way for over a hundred years.  I think people forgot about them until a bar owner dropped a keg on the floor and it continued down, down, down into the one that existed under his bar.  

They were then cleaned up and offered to the businesses above them.  Luckily for us, the tour company is in a building above the deepest and so we were able to tour them.  There were the stories of haunting, cold spots, ghosts that just hang out, one that follows people around and yells at them to get out, another that they think was a shoe maker and is confused by velco, and a little boy that likes to hold hands.

We did not come in contact with any of them, but I did take a few pictures:

My beloved says these are candles, I say they are eyes.  What do you think.

So after the tour we made our way back home, wondering all the way if our close - Lady Stair's Close - has any ghosts.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Scotland - Day 1

We arrived in Edinburgh last evening about five in the afternoon. It was dark already and a little cold. We are staying at a place on The Royal Mile - at one end is the fantastic Edinburgh Castle

And the yet to be seen Holyrood.  We are staying in an apartment in Lady Stair Close. A close is an alleyway between buildings leading to a passage way to tenements.  It seems that there are lots of them here and I mean to go down a few of them over the next couple of days. 

We started our first day here early. We took a tour to Stirling Castle - the castle that you had to capture if you wanted to rule Scotland.  

While not terrible impressive from this picture, it was very impressive when you got in and started looking around.  There has been a castle of some sort on this high point since at least 1100. The current castle was created by James V.

We had a tour guide at the castle, who not only looked like my brother but had his love of history and his ability to tell a story. We learned the story of poor Mary Queen of Scots, her father James V died when she was just six days old, she being an only child became queen, crowned at nine months - we were told she cried thru out the ceremony.  Pretty bad start to a pretty bad life.  Being a princess is not all its cracked up to be.

We went on this tour with a company called Rabbi's Tours.  Small groups - our group was really small - my beloved, myself and two women from Austrailia and our driver and guide Davy boy. Named so because he had four older brothers and his name was David and so he became Davy Boy. Anyway, he was a spectacular guide - talked all the way about stuff we really wanted to hear about.   Mary Queen of Scots, Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, Rob Roy, it was a short lesson in Scots history.  He was one of those people that really loves his job and shares his love of his country with facts , humor and pride. He also told us about his Aunt Mary who believed in the tradition of telling young people their history - he loved to hear her stories and he seemed to have inherited her  love of telling those stories. Thank heavens for the Auntie Mary's of the world. 

After Stirling, we headed to Loch Lomond, the biggest loch in Scotland. It has about 20 - 40 islands in it. Some big, some small, some occupied and some not. Some have names, this one is named The Old Lady's Island

It was a calm cold afternoon walk down to the shores of the loch.  By this time it was getting dark and we were started back to Edinburgh.  Of course we did see some cute friends along the way

We ended the night as a pub called The World's End, so called because it is built on the foundation of the old wall that surrounded Edinburgh in medieval times. A time when most people born here never left the city, never went beyond the wall.

Thankfully, we go beyond our walls now, otherwise how would we see these places and meet these people that share so much of their history with us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sasha - be well.

Story in the news where I live. 

Young non-binary Sasha was riding a bus on the way home from school. Sasha is 16 and does not identify with any gender.  You and I might not understand this, but that does not matter. Sasha dresses differently, sometimes wearing a skirt. Sasha was wearing one a couple of weeks ago while on the way home. Sasha fell asleep on the bus. Sasha was then set on fire by another passenger on the bus. Yes set on fire.

The person that did it?  Another young person who's mother says "he is a kid. Kids joke around". 


What did he think was going to happen?  

I ask out loud - what the fuck did he think was going to happen?  To me this was not some harmless prank. It was an attack on a sleeping child that had done nothing wrong - other than being different. 

Luckily, Sasha will survive - at least physically.  Hopefully in all other ways as well, which seems possible since Sasha seems to have parents that accept and love him.

They other one?  He also has a mother that seems to love and accept him, but I think he is already damaged beyond repair.

Hip hop hypocrite

Why is it when someone gets caught doing something, they simply say they are going to rehab and think that is an answer?

That freshman congressman - the hip hop congressman - so he calls himself.  He also voted to force people getting food stamps to take drug tests. 

Got caught in a sting and bought coke from an under cover cop. 

He is reporting he has a problem and going rehab?  He is going to take a leave of absence and donating his salary to charity?

Why is that the answer?  The answer is you like to drink and do drugs and you are a fucking hypocrite. 

Is there rehab for being an asshole?