Tuesday, August 30, 2005
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
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
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
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.
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?
ARGH kidding. But he is single. Of that I am sure.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
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.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
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.
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
- The accent
- Pork rinds
- Diet Coke with lime
- Lemon drizzle cake from ASDA
- Armand's home-made spaghetti
- The train systemWHAT'S NOT
- The weather
- The customer service
- Only having one ladies toilet at my worksite
- The men in Paisley
- The bus system
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
Monday, August 15, 2005
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.
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.
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.
Friday, August 12, 2005
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
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.
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?
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
- 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.
[Editor's Note: It is unfortunately completely UNfunny if you've no idea who I'm talking about - sorry]
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
- 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.
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.
Monday, August 08, 2005
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.
Friday, August 05, 2005
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
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.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
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
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.
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
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.
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.