Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On the Fringe in Edinburgh

The Megabus
Originally uploaded by Mark Turner.
Now that I am officially unemployed, I celebrated my new-found lifestyle by mingling with the masses in Edinburgh.

Patronising the cheap megabus system, AB and I powered up the motorway late on Saturday morning, and arrived early afternoon in our nation's capital.

Edinburgh is a beautiful city and we were really lucky to see it in the sunshine while it was besieged by Fringe Festival Fans. The atmosphere was truly great and so reminiscent of Adelaide. I don't care what anyone says, Ed may be a bigger Fringe, but Adelaide's rocks and always will.

But I digress.

AB and I hastily bought some tickets to see two productions staged by the same University theatre company. The first play, a musical, was called 'Fame Game'. Dicko would have had a field day with this lot - only the minority of the cast could sing well. But the second play was by a different cast and was a dramatic piece. It was about convicts transported to Australia and the idea of the soldiers to start a theatre group amongst the convicts to keep them out of mischief. Both AB and I really enjoyed the latter production.

I particularly enjoyed the Indian dinner afterwards - Cobra beer beats Kingfisher any day. Just an aside.

The next day we braved the drizzle to tour around Edinburgh Castle, along with about 4 billion other people. The views across the City are stunning, but the Castle is not so great. Just very big really. I can't see what all the fuss is about. There sure are a lot of gift shops though. I bought small bottles of Glayva and Drambuie and AB and I indulged later on. Warming and delicious they were.

Had drinks at an ultra trendy club that Nat took us to on Sunday night and we felt very cool. Got some pics too, but they will follow later.

Yesterday we sat at a cafe called 'Biblos' and had - wait for it -an Aberdeen Angus Steak Hamburger (there you go J!) and it was delicious. The crisp, cold French rose helped to wash it down I think.

So all in all, I had a fantastic weekend and lots of good memories. We didn't see a lot of shows for the Fringe, but wandered down the Royal Mile enough times to witness some dodgy street performances and have enough pamphlets thrust into our hands to wallpaper Betty's house!

Will be laying low until next Thursday when I jet off to Italy - a trip that has been a long time coming indeed.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A day of 'last-ing' impressions

Well today is my last day at the Office and I have been getting quite sentimental.

I have been having a day of 'lasts': last time getting out of bed before 7am; last time eating breakfast alone; last time catching the bus from hell; last time buying milk at the deli; last time making percolated coffee...you know how it goes.

But I've been invited to a lunch for a lady who's about to start a long stint of annual leave (much like myself really), and I was really chuffed to be included in the party. Only took them 12 weeks to realise I was here, but better late than never, right?

The bottom line of all this is that the daily blog entries you've become accustomed to will cease for the forseeable future.

I know that some of you have made reading this blog part of your morning routine, and for that I am flattered. For those regular readers, I've left you with some cool links down the right hand side of this page, to explore in my absence.

And when I return to Blogland in a little while, I would like to think that it will be to regale you with all the exciting new developments in my life. Here's hoping that's the case, anyway.

And in the words of the Terminator, both good and evil versions, I'll be back.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Take a hike!

Tomorrow is my last day of this temping assignment, before I head off to Italy with my parents and aunt. Yahoo the time has come!

And for mine, one of the best bits about the break is that I can hang up my corporate wardrobe for 4 weeks and live in the same three outfits, recycled over and over. All unironed, naturally.

There is something liberating about being a slob while on holidays. Maybe I reason that a bedraggled appearance acts as a deterrent to gypsies and pickpockets, who knows?

And while I love the travel-sized toiletries, and how everything on a plane comes wrapped in its own little packaging, a non-stop travelling life wouldn't be for me. I couldn't live out of a suitcase all the time.

If I did, I'm sure that the concept of travel would become a chore akin to waking up for work on a Monday morning (or any morning during winter). I'd groan, I'd execute a spectacular eyeball roll, and I'd try to invent every reason in the world not to do it.

And if travel become a drain for me, I would run the risk of never again being able to appreciate the jittery butterflies in my stomach when I think about all the fun things I'm going to see on the next holiday. And I wouldn't trade those butterflies for anything.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Clootie and Champers

I admit to being a little apprehensive about my birthday every year. I know that 28 isn't old, but I don't go in for those big bells-and-whistles birthdays; preferring instead to settle down to a quiet family/friends dinner. And so you can understand why this year's birthday was always going to be a little different. Being in Scotland, away from my family and friends, meant that this year's celebration was not the highest point on my social agenda.

But I was well and truly spoiled this year, with a Dinner and Drinks package that proved just as good as any Aussie nosh-up. Betty whipped up a garlic-infused roast lamb with all the trimmings, plus a jam-filled sponge cake with candles on top. Washed down with some Aussie bubbly courtesy of my equally-parched travelling companion. Armand, who is very anti-birthdays generally, even joined in the chorus of 'Happy Birthday', much to the surprise and amusement of us all.

Following the cake, we enjoyed a traditional Scottish birthday treat - the Clootie Dumpling. I know, it doesn't sound all that flash, but it is actually really delicious. And quite versatile, if you believe Betty - and I do. The dumpling looks and tastes like a Chrismas pudding and is made in much the same way. To eat it, you can cover it in custard; or apparently you can fry slices of it in butter and serve it warm. Alternatively, you can just eat is cold and plain, as we did.

All in all, a deliciously satisfying 28th birthday with my adopted friends and family. And the sun even shone for me, which I thought was a nice touch.

I must have one of those faces

I am battling a bit of a cold at the moment which is hardly surprising, given that the Scottish summer and the Adelaide winter are virtually identical.

Standing at the bus stop last night, sheltered against the wild wind that signalled a storm was coming, I did not notice the two young guys who had come to seek refuge by the bus stop with me.

One of them asked me when the bus was coming, and I told him. Then he asked me where in America I was from. I was going to make it up, but this is a small town and I didn't want to be found out a liar and chased out of town by goons in a ute brandishing pitchforks. So I corrected his assumption and responded to his follow-up questions by telling him bits about where I'd travelled, where I was staying (rough bus-route directions naturally), and what I'd seen in Scotland so far.

I didn't want to give this guy any more information about myself, so I turned the tables and starting asking HIM questions. Not out of any real interest, you understand, more to guard against him appearing outside my bedroom window at night, leering lasciviously at me as I slept.

As our conversation changed, so too did the wind direction. And it was then that I was able to smell the beer literally oozing out of the two of them. Boy, do I know how to pick them?

Trying to salvage my sophistication, I attempted to resume the conversation.

Putting forward the view that Scotland's geography makes it easy for people to explore Europe so easily, my new friend nodded and sagely added, "Aye that's true. But when you've got a criminal record, like us, travelling gets difficult". You can't argue with that.

But the piece de resistance came when he rather surprised himself with his political ambitions, and figured he would run for Parliament. His platform would be the end to terrorism, achieved through the mass eviction of all terrorists from British soil. Clearly a Big Brother fan. But rather than asking the British public to SMS their least-favourite terrorists for weekly expulsion, my young friend was masterminding a more direct route. Proudly, he announced that in order to rid Britain of terrorism, he'd simply "get rid of all the coloured people".

It was about that point that I started to inch away from Adolph Hitler and Gretel Killeen's love child. I figured our conversation was done. He hadn't asked me out, and I'd given him plenty of chances.

ARGH kidding. But he is single. Of that I am sure.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I just blew in from the Granite City

Greetings Ladies and Jellyspoons!

Have arrived back in Paisley, having spent a wonderful few days up north in Aberdeen. Can you believe we actually had sunshine for every single day we were there? So much so, that I had to buy a few cheap tshirts, given that all the tops I'd taken with me were long-sleeved? Shocking.

Aberdeen is known as the Granite City because many of the major buildings are constructed from the local granite. Okay, so not too many marks for creativity there. But the City itself, when caught in the right light, really does glow a beautiful silvery colour and it looks lovely. On the Sunday night when it rained, the City took on a rather un-glamorous grey tinge, which I don't admire so much. But you can't have everything now, can you? Photos to follow, naturally.

Our accommodation was central, and made it super-easy to walk around the City and through the many shopping arcades. I bought some souvenirs for my sister and, as I said above, some clothes for me.

We also ended up attending 2 stag parties on Saturday evening, in two separate pubs no less. Of course, we did not know either groom, but I shimmied on the dancefloor with one of them; and Batreg and I were whisked out the side exit of a bar by the other (so Batreg could escape the attentions of a rather aged creep - who bought us Drambuie, but that's not the point).

I seem to recall that the grandfather of one of the grooms took quite a shine to me, but that did not result in the premature bequest of any significant assets or the promise of any more drinks. So, like the Anna Nicole Smith rejects that we felt, we slung ourselves out of that bar and oozed up to our hotel room.

Thankful for a greasy Scottish breakfast, that I had just enough morning-after energy to shift around the plate with a fork, we saw 'Madagascar' at the cinema, and then saw the sights on a self-guided (aka aimless) shuffling/walking tour of the City.

So while it was a rather action-packed social weekend, it was a shame that we didn't get up to Inverness while we were there, or over to Balmoral to have tea & scones with the Queen at her Scottish retreat, but there is plenty of time left for that.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

An 'orchid' occasion

When you've been married for 28 years, you're supposed to buy your spouse orchids.

So today, on the 28th anniversary of my birth, I've decided to give myself an Australian orchid. To be precise, this is a Den Biggibum.

A rather appropriate gift on all accounts, wouldn't you say? Haha.

Real deja-vu is tres bien (for some)

Forgive me for not doing any backflips at this family's good fortune. If it's not enough that French women don't get fat, now they can be smugly rich too? Pf-oof to that.

Going to the Granite City

Foreshadowing a brief halt in blogging transmission, effective close of business today. AB and I are heading to Aberdeen tomorrow morning for a looong-weekend and sightseeing break.

Must-sees in the Granite City include: the men that work for Shell; St Machar's Cathedral (see picture); The Lemon Tree; Provost Skene's House; and the Duthie Park Winter Gardens. And the men that work for Shell. Did I mention that already?

The world will be back to normal on Tuesday!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Reflections in a puddle

In my old age, I have started to get rather sentimental about things. I've become intolerant and, to borrow a word from the Alabama-ites, curmudgeony.

But I've also become inspired, most recently by my friend Groovy Gem. Now based in London, Gem delights her email contacts with a semi-regular 'What's Hot and What's Not' list, derived from her UK experience to date.

In the interests of all-out copycatting, with no copyright dues paid, I hereby present to you the 'What's Hot and What's Not in Scotland' list:
  • The accent
  • Pork rinds
  • Diet Coke with lime
  • Lemon drizzle cake from ASDA
  • Armand's home-made spaghetti
  • The train system
  • The weather
  • The customer service
  • Only having one ladies toilet at my worksite
  • The men in Paisley
  • The bus system

The Merry Mob of Miami Lab-Rats

Watching CSI:Miami last night, I started to get a serious case of the irrites.

Why don't the ladies wear their hair back when searching for evidence?
Why did they have to kill off Tim Speedle?
Why is the Medical Examiner's chest so large?
Why does Horatio have to wear his sunglasses to solve every case?

Too many unresolved questions, I tell you. I prefer Grissom's team. Now that Greg's been allowed out of the lab and into the field, the Las Vegas series got a whole lot more interesting. But he should try and solve some more cases topless. Greg, that is, not Grissom.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

There's a caiman in my toilet

No, not a caveman, a caiman. It's a reptile native to South America, and a freakily large specimen is now believed to be gaily swimming around the Los Angeles sewer system. Oh goody.

But what takes the biscuit for me is the supposition that this Roaming Reptile was once a domestic pet that was released to the community when it got too large for its home. Like a sharp-toothed teenager, it was kicked out to the kerb, told to fend for itself.

Problem is, this little fella can feed on dogs, cats, and little old ladies not paying attention when they cross the street. It's clearly not attracted by the raw chicken (and tortillas?) that law enforcement officials, park rangers, and local fishermen are using to tempt it. Don't they know that Steve Irwin only uses raw chickens for TV? Sheesh.

I bet the Hollywood studios are rubbing their hands with glee. A Godzilla sequel like this just writes itself!

Monday, August 15, 2005

James who?

My friends over at the ABC's media blog, The Shallow End, have informed me that Hugh Jackman has said "thanks but no thanks, mate!" to the three-film deal to play James Bond.

While I am actually very pro-Jackman and think that he would have made a smashing Bond, I am ultra pleased that this leaves the way open for my personal first choice. I've lobbied before and I'll lobby again.

This is Gerard Butler. You may remember him from such films as "Phantom of the Opera" (that was him under the mask), and "Tomb Raider 2" (can't remember the name of his character but that's not the point).

To the producers of the James Bond flicks, please don't discount Gerry B. He's already wearing the tux - and how! - and he's got that adorable Scottish brogue that will make many a femme fatale weak at the knees.

I don't ask for a finders fee on this occasion, just a three film deal to play Moneypenny. Ahem.

An oh so Semple weekend

I was intending to see the World Pipe Band Championships over the weekend at Glasgow Green, but waking on Saturday morning, we changed our minds. Not only was the weather ominous, there had been some sort of lurgie doing the rounds of the house overnight that left AB and I with headaches on Saturday morning. Not alcohol related, I promise.

Lochwinnoch, Scotland

Anyhoo, we decided that weather notwithstanding, Saturday looked relatively nice enough to head out and go for a hike. We figured that in addition to a few Panadol, the fresh air may do wonders for our headaches. And the hike may do wonders for our waistlines. Or something. So we headed for Lochwinnoch, a town about 15 minutes from where we live.

Since our arrival in Scotland, we have been to Lochwinnoch a number of times. It is a very popular site for watersports like kayaking and windsurfing. We are clearly more 'kiosk and gift shop' sort of gals, and fortunately Lochwinnoch doesn't let us down there either.

The other reason we have been to Lochwinnoch has been to seek out a heritage site called Castle Semple Collegiate Church, more to cross it off in our tourism book than anything else really. But looking more closely at the hike path signs a few weeks ago, we realised that the Castle Semple site is actually a 4 mile hike from the watersports park where you first arrive. But on Saturday, 4 miles didn't sound so far, and we were up for it. So off we went.

Four miles into the (fortunately) very easy hike, we came across Castle Semple's church, hidden on a farm property and in pretty ramshackle condition, as you'd expect. Olden-day gravestones and all.
But the best bit? When we got back to the car to enjoy our restorative thermos of coffee, no sooner had we shut our doors than the rain came pouring down. It was very amusing to watch the kids doing archery scramble to get out of the downpour, leaving one poor fella to pack up all the bows and arrows by himself. Champagne comedy.

Swans at Lochwinnoch, Scotland

Friday, August 12, 2005

Being Fringe-dwellers in Edinburgh

To say that the UK is an expensive nation for Australian travellers would be an understatement. But in our defence, AB and I knew that when we came here. We also knew that earning as many British pounds as we could, as quickly as we could, would be the only way we could stay financially afloat.

Given our other expenses just associated with living and working here, we were unable to afford tickets to the Edinburgh Tattoo, which was a bit of a shame. But thanks to Kate's great advice, not to mention her dogged persistence that I get off my arse and do something, I believe that AB and I have masterminded the Cheapskate's Guide to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2005. We will not miss out on the grand finale of this fantastic and eclectic event in the nation's capital.

I'm really looking forward to the 27 and 28 August weekend, when we catch a cheap City Link bus to Edinburgh. We plan to catch as many free Fringe shows and soak up as much sidewalk atmosphere as we can. Plus the Fringe organisers have erected a Spiegeltent that, just like in Adelaide, houses fantastic late-night shows that are either dirt cheap, or free. Bonus! At nights, we'll sleep off the busy days camping out on Nat & Susie's floor in our sleeping bags. What a fantastic way to spend an electric weekend.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Kids today don't know how lucky they are

A quick glance out my Office window this morning, and my stomach flipped a little. Because across the walkway from me is a huge University Hall filled with students sitting their supplementary exams.

Though they'd probably disagree wholeheartedly, I think these students are lucky. Like thousands of others before me, and since, I had to sit my Uni exams in a large, drafty exhibition hall at the Royal Adelaide showgrounds. My childhood memories of the hall were ones of cake decorating displays, and showbags.

But these childish reveries were shattered by the adult experiences I had there. Stern-faced examiners, creaky floorboards, and seats that were never quite close enough to the bar heaters. I have never been able to enjoy the Adelaide Show since. In fact, I took a 5 year hiatus from the yearly Show because the University spoiled it for me. You'd think I'd be able to enjoy Sideshow Alley, or at least the pig races, but the Exhibition Hall loomed large from Goodwood Road and made me cringe at the thought of it.

Part of me feels sorry for the students sitting their exams on such a beautiful day here in Paisley, but another part of me knows they are the lucky ones. The Adelaide Show will never be a scary place for them.

When it helps to be full of hot air

I'm looking forward to this Saturday, because AB and I are planning to take the train into Glasgow and see the World Pipe Band Championships 2005.

Though I've seen and heard a busking bagpiper or two while I've been in Scotland, I've never experienced 8000 of them in one place. In this instance, it's Glasgow Green. And while I'm not really clear on how to get to Glasgow Green from the train station, something tells me I'll be able to just follow the sounds.

As far as I'm concerned, it's good news that Australia has even flown some pipers over, though they're calling themselves 'techno pipers'. I'm not really clear on what that means, but I suspect it will do for bagpiping what The Tap Dogs did for tap dancing?

I'm looking forward to seeing a sea of tartan on Saturday, and I just hope our boys aren't dressed like jolly swagmen. I don't think I could possibly cheer them on if they were.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

AB and I have been working through our Historic Scotland brochure to get around and see some ancient tourist sites this side of Glasgow. We've also caught the train to Edinburgh and seen some (though not even close to all) of the sites there.

But it wasn't until I found this article that I realised there is so much more to Scotland than I thought. In fact, it's a list of 100 Things To Do In Scotland Before You Die. So far between us, we've only done five:
  • Spit on the Heart of Midlothian (well, ladies don't spit, but I did acknowledge the Heart when I walked down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh);
  • Visit the Barras weekend market (bootleg cigarettes and CDs galore);
  • Read Oor Wullie/Broons annual (AB bought it, but I flicked through it);
  • Make and eat tablet (done and dusted); and
  • Eat haggis and clapshot (only get 1/2 point for this one - haven't tried clapshot yet).

So we have our work cut out for us. Some of the challenges are easy, like riding The Clockwork Orange (the underground) around Glasgow; while others take a bit more planning, like renting a remote hut on the Isle of Mull.

But each of these 100 entries sound so different, I can't wait to get started.

But would Prue and Trude sell it?

An article from Melbourne's 'The Age' newspaper today made me smile but not because it is particularly funny per se. The article talks about a new fashion trend for this coming season, currently adorning the catwalks of the major Aussie department stores.

We're talking about neo boho. Apparently it is about all things ethnic and incorporates chunky jewellery, big handbags, shoes with wedged heels, and anything crochet.

But even the eclectic components of neo boho didn't make me laugh. It was when I read it out loud, and realised I was speaking exactly like Prue and Trude from the hysterical 'Kath & Kim'. Now THAT'S funny.

[Editor's Note: It is unfortunately completely UNfunny if you've no idea who I'm talking about - sorry]

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

And another thing....

Why am I completely incapable of shutting up?

The HR Manager of the University came to my boss's office for a meeting today and asked how I was doing. In a stellar display of verbal diarrhoea, I spewed forth the ins and outs of my holiday in Scotland; my stilted social life; where my friends are living and working both in Australia and overseas; and what I was looking forward to most about my upcoming trip to Italy.

Did she care? Probably not. Hell, I wasn't even interested and I was telling the story! But at least she had the good social graces to keep her eyes from glazing over. Nor did she slide off the chair and into a coma. But what's the bet she never arrives early for a meeting again?!

Wanna know a secret?

I love a good conspiracy. The idea that there is a secret society, even a political one, out there scrambling to cover up wrongdoing intrigues me.

And who wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall when there is a cover up required? Think about some of the mysteries from the last 60 years. In our society, knowledge is power - and who wouldn't want the inside story on these:

  • Who really killed JFK?
  • Was the 1969 moon landing faked?
  • Was Princess Diana murdered?

If I was chosen to solve one lingering mystery of the 20th century, it would be the death of Marilyn Monroe. Though she passed away 43 years ago, the recent release of psychiatrist tapes has re-ignited the 'Murder vs Suicide' debate. I've read books that argue the case for both sides, and I'm shrieking with the 'murder' banshees. I guess I'd just like to go back in time and get conclusive proof of what really happened. Michael J Fox in 'Back to the Future' taught me that changing anything in the past really alters the future, so I'd be careful not to play with the space/time continuum.

But maybe in seeing what really happened, I would be able to determine whether the dark forces at play in the Marilyn's life (and ultimately her death) were real, and not in her mind after all.

Betty's Marvellous Medicine

Continuing my gastronomic tour through Scotland, last night I watched as Betty produced a gooey tray of Scottish tablet. As you can see from the picture, tablet is a fudge-type sweet made entirely of sugar, and assorted sugary products. I don't think there is a single bit of goodness in the whole block.

A recipe can be found here, if you're brave enough to try it for yourself.

I could definitely be persuaded to take two of these tablets and call my dentist in the morning!

And before you say it, I can see that I'm slowly becoming Little Sally Homemaker. I know, it scares me as much as it scares you. But as Gab plus boiling sugar do not go together, I figured I should watch the experts at work and enjoy the fruits of their labours. And I did.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Well THAT was embarrassing

Do you think it says something if you go into the local library, and the ladies behind the counter know your name before even calling it up on the computer?!

Sleighbells ring, are you listening?

The gorgeous postman arrived on Saturday afternoon and deposited a lovely white, business-sized envelope that heralded the joyous news that I am the proud owner of a Scottish bank account!

And it's all timed quite well with the plans that are afoot in the Massie household. Andrea and I are working on Betty to come with us to a Christmas market this year. Well aware that it is only August, we nevertheless have to be organised about these things. There are flights to be booked, accommodation to be secured, and Christmas lists to draft and re-draft.

Given our globetrotting to date, AB and I are leaning towards Germany, home to the world's oldest Christmas market. But I can also see the appeal in visiting Salzburg, so AB and I can croon along to 'The Sound of Music' ditties. Then there is Prague and Bruges, that also present viable options. I was even considering a day trip to Lapland, to ride a sleigh and look for Santa in the Arctic Circle. How cool (literally) would that be? Oh, the decisions!

Halloo, is anyone there?

When I woke up on Saturday, I realised that I did not have any idea what I would be getting up to over my weekend. The weather was fine, the birds were chirping, Mitzy was barking like a nutcase - it was good to be alive.

So when AB and I found out that Betty was disappearing to the shops with her brother and his wife to do the weekly grocery shopping, we wondered what that meant for us. If we didn't speak up, we were going to be left behind to spend a sunshine-filled day indoors. So we pounced, and got a lift into Bridge of Weir, one village over from ours. I'd never been in the main street of Bridge of Weir any longer than it takes me to post a letter. Literally. So it seemed like a place to explore. Even on a weekend.

What I've come to realise is that unlike Paris, that never sleeps, Scotland really is a 'Monday to Friday, 9-5' kind of country. And Bridge of Weir, while charming, is no exception - definite and strict opening/closing hours apply here. Just because the bakery is open, doesn't mean it's going to have anything to buy in there.

But I come to work today and my boss assures me - straight faced and all - that Bridge of Weir is one of the most sought-after places to live in Scotland. The quality of life is high, and the quality of public schooling is even higher. Who knew?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Colorado: The Turkey State!

This short news report explains why it's dangerous to be a turkey in Colorado, but apparently the State's prisoners are quite reasonable (for altogether different reasons, that is!).

Scotland: Premier holiday destination for aliens!

Or so the headlines might read, if one of the latest rumours around Paisley proves true.

I had to laugh when I read the local paper last night. It turns out that the Manager of Paisley's principal High Street shopping centre firmly believes that UFOs are trying to make contact with Paisley residents.

What has led to this affirmation on the part of the shopping centre boss was the appearance of a mysterious circle burned into the gravel on the roof of the Centre. The discovery of this 'crop circle' coincided with the simultaneous failure of electronic and radio transmission devices inside the shops. Did an alien craft land on the roof? One maintenance worker said he witnessed an aircraft of some kind leaving the scene, twinkling lights and all. The 'aliens' (the extra-terrestrial kind, not the Aussie kind simply trying to get a bank account) also apparently left behind a sheet of 'unusual' metal, which looked suspiciously to me like a silver thermal camping blanket. But what do I know? Oh how I chortled.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not laughing to be malicious. In fact I'm open to the idea that aliens exist. I figure it's probably obnoxious of us to think that of the 9 official (and 1 nameless) planets in our solar system, Earth should be the only one harbouring 'intelligent' life forms. So I'm simply amused right now at the thought that aliens, who conceivably have the entire galaxy of planets and civilisations to choose from, would still elect to communicate with Paisley residents. Is anyone else baffled?

But for my 2 pence worth, the piece de resistance of this story is surely what's now to be done.

Forget NASA, or the Area 51 people. All the evidence from this local mystery is now destined for the UFO experts at Paisley University for further investigation. Oh mercy. Does it get any better than this?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Solving the perky problems

The eagle-eyed reporters over at CNN's website have informed me of the release of a titilating (sorry) new book.

The author compiled a list of stumper questions he'd been asked at parties over the years, and most of which probably killed the party conversation dead.

But I like the book's premise. In addition to the book's namesake, the author has endeavoured to dispel such mysteries as why our teeth chatter when we're cold; why some of us get morning breath; whether we can actually catch diseases from toilet seats; and why baked beans give us gas.

Read it, and be the smartest person at your next cocktail party. If you're not already, that is.

You just put your lips together and Pf-oof

One of the positive things I picked up on my travels through France is the pf-oof.

No, it's not a noise your body involuntarily makes. It's a very intentional, almost non-verbal little expression that conveys just about every emotion. Among others, it's perfectly appropriate to pf-oof in frustration; resignation; dissatisfaction; occupation; and fatigue.

The pf-oof is most often (and most appropriately) used when forced to sardine onto the Parisian metro, and the fact that I've rolled over its use into Scotland is evidence of a truly European adventure.

Try it and you'll see how versatile an expression the pf-oof can be. Just remember that a well-timed eyeball roll is the perfect accompaniment to this jolie expression. Tres French, dahling!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

We come in peace, from the Planet Xena?

With Adelaide's own Andy Thomas circling the skies above our heads on a NASA mission, some extra-terrestrial news of a different kind today.

The UK's New Scientist magazine is running a competition inviting readers to name the solar system's newly-discovered 10th planet. Children get a chance to do this kind of thing all the time when baby animals are born in zoos, but now it's time for the Big Kids to have a go.

The competition will help solve the planet's identity crisis. To some it is known as 2003UB313, but to Mike Brown from California's Institute of Technology, it carries the name Xena, in deference to Lucy Lawless. The British press has reported that Brown has apparently "always wanted to name something Xena". [Ed's note: Get a dog, Mike.]

According to the article on the ABC website from whence this story comes, the competition's preliminary terms and conditions seem easy enough to follow:

Names should be pronounceable, non-offensive, 16 characters or less in length and preferably one word.

Names should not be too similar to an existing name of a minor
planet or natural planetary satellite.

In addition, names for persons or events known primarily for
their military or political activities are acceptable only after 100 years
have elapsed since the person died or the event occurred.

Commercial names are not allowed and the names of pet animals
are discouraged.

When thinking about what you'd name the planet, it's worth remembering the following things:

  • this planet is about 3 times more remote than Pluto, so you won't be visiting any time soon;
  • scientists are suggesting that what some think is a planet could also be just a jumped up asteroid and not a planet at all;
  • whatever it is, it takes 560 earth years to orbit our sun
  • Planet Microsoft is out (cause we already live on it); and
  • you can't have Gabatron, because that's my idea.

The challenge is on, and the rest is up to you. Nanoo-nanoo. Hehe that rhymes.

Summer Days, Drifting Away

Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you...

In addition to being Crowded House lyrics, I am putting the call out to anyone to please take the rain and cold away from Scotland. If I had wanted this drizzle and cold wind I would have stayed home for the Adelaide winter.

I knew that Scotland would be chilly and snowy eventually, but I figured I would be safe until winter. I didn't think it would be this way in summer. And that's what the calendar tells me we're in: summer. But the grey sky I see outside my window today is clearly protesting the date.

Everyone knows that howling winds and frosty air is the sort of weather you're happy to experience at home, lying like a loungeroom lizard on a beanbag, with a steaming cup of coffee and a trashy midday movie. These are not the sort of conditions you want first thing in the morning, when walking down the mainstreet, laden with work bags, battling to ensure that your cheap umbrella doesn't turn you into Mary Poppins. Up, up, and awaaaay? No thanks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Dog-paddling Prisoner

When I was carrying on about looking for an end to bad news, I fear I may have got carried away with the results of my search for happiness.

My latest 'good news' find is "a hoot and a half" (direct quote) from America. Jake, a golden retriever (evidently not pictured here) leapt into the waters off Alcatraz and joined his owner in a 2.01km swim to the mainland, as part of the 10th annual Alcatraz Invitational Plunge.

The story continues to say that the dog's swim was fuelled by an egg breakfast. Hehe I can imagine that those eggs gave him some pretty good forward momentum - and a clear berth all around him too. Hehe sorry.

Quit it already!

Warning: Ill-informed rant to follow!

I have seriously had enough of reading about explosions; terrorism; bombs; suspicious packages; and other nasties. I don't want to open my newspaper websites to read about yet another attempt by wackos to destroy the way of life of Londoners. Leave the innocent people alone and give me some good news for once. Seriously, does nothing good happen in this world anymore?

Why can't these crazy people (original terrorists and the even crazier copycats) just tolerate difference and get over it? I know I'm simplifying their many issues, but that's because no-one can tell the likes of me why they do what they do. And anyway, I'm on my soapbox now so you'll have to put up with me.

Like everyone, I've had to read about the tragic aftermath of such carry-on. Given that speculation is all we're ever left with after events like London, Turkey, New York, and Bali, I want to throw out this challenge to the lunatics causing this devastation: If you've got a statement to make, stand somewhere public and make it. Don't strap a bomb to your back and go ka-boom in relative anonymity, taking innocent people out with you. Don't wait until CCTV cameras identify you (before the City morgue does) and leave us to wonder what you might have intended by your crazy antics. Be mature, grab your balls (if it helps), and tell us what you want, rather than letting itty bitty pieces of your body do the talking. I know there are thousands of people out there who, in a twisted way, would think I have a point.

Phew, rant over. We now return to your regularly scheduled program.


So I was less than kind this time last week about the little goblins I was sure stuffed around with Scottish street signs while we slept. After all, how else can you explain why we've been so unsuccessful in finding castles and lochs that we've been searching for on weekend road trips? Last weekend we experienced roads that led nowhere, and castles that simply couldn't be found (by us). This weekend was markedly different. I'm talking a 100% success rate!

I finished work early on Friday, because Paisley was having its Fair Day on Monday and we all got the day off work. Let me just add here that just because you have a Fair Day, doesn't mean there is a Fair to go and experience. It is just called "Fair Day". Presumably because working 9 to 5 is so unfair to begin with.

So over the weekend, as card carrying members of the Historic Scotland organisation (seriously - we get in for free now), we set off in search of the following sites:

  • Dundonald Castle - spider sacs in the prison;
  • Troon - because I saw a cute boy on the train once who got off there;
  • Bothwell Castle - see picture above;
  • Cadzow Castle - couldn't go in, so we parked in the disabled park and took pictures;
  • Craignethan Castle - beautiful and green, and a very windy road to get in there;
  • Cairnpapple Hill - communing with nature;
  • Torpichen Preceptory - home to the St John Ambulance tradition - sort of; and
  • Blackness Castle - where Mel Gibson's "Hamlet" was filmed.

So you can see it was a non-stop and action-packed weekend. My favourite was probably Bothwell Castle, because it was so well laid out, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. The grounds were set a way back off the road and it makes a nice picnic spot.

I spent Monday just relaxing until Batreg made me go for a walk into the woodlands. Photographic evidence of all of this weekend's antics, including the bushwalk, will follow.