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The Writings on the Stall

Monday, 2002-12-30


Today we headed out to Stirling (not a typo) to check out Stirling Castle. Surprisingly, it was cold and rainy when we arrived.

The site was spectacular. And like many places in Scotland, very old. [Note: I have a reputation in Gemma's family of liking all things historic. Mainly because most places in Europe, down to even brothels and whore houses, are often older than the United States.]

The views were definitely much clearer, however, than they were at Edinburgh castle. I could actually see the surrounding town. One view that particularly caught my eye was of the Wallace Monument. Found at the top of a rocky crag, the monument towers near the purported site of The Battle of Stirling Bridge, 1297, which William Wallace led and won.

After touring the castle for a couple of hours, we stepped out to see something very rare in Scotland. A rainbow. Over the same Wallace Monument mentioned above. I honestly couldn't believe it. That patch of sunshine provided to be so majestic that my camera couldn't turn away. Up until the point I realized I had taken a total of around ten shots of that particular view.

After a single tear, we headed down the hill, keeping in mind the haul we would have on our way back up. We ate at a pub called "All That Jazz" which was packed when we entered, and practically empty when we left. I tried Guinness Extra Cold, which is the same as the Guinness I have had recently on several occasions. Except for the temperature of the pipes which the draft flow out of (which, you guessed it, happened to be very cold). Being a fan of very cold beer, there was much rejoicing.

We trudged back up the hill to the car and came back home. And here I am, once again very tired and ready to hit the hay.

Sunday, 2002-12-29

fish and chips

After not eating for what felt like an eternity, I finally got to try Victor's fish and chips (known as wedges in the United States o' America). I have been told about the yumminess of these two items for weeks. And to think I had lived 19 years without even knowing said tasty food existed. I don't know what I am going to do without such a delicacy when I return to the States. Until then, "fried fish and chips, and load the vinegar, please."

Friday, 2002-12-27

edinburgh and four pints

Today, the Waterston clan and I ventured to the capital of Scotland: Edinburgh. Once parked, we immediately started a walk up the Royal Mile towards Edinburgh Castle. Gemma wanted me to take pictures on the walk up, but I didn't feel the environmental conditions were right (fog had enveloped the area and we were being pissed on, in such a manner apparently typical of Scotland). Once in the castle's walls, I went somewhat trigger-happy. Quite an amazing site the Edinburgh Castle is. I can't even imagine how many rolls of film I would have burned through had it been a less dreary day. And the "you are here" in Edinburgh map seemed to give the impression that the views from the castle would have been breathtaking. Shame.

Upon leaving the castle, hunger struck. So we headed to the nearest tavern, which happened to be a great choice. I had Guinness and creamy pasta with mussels. Tasty. On the other hand, Gill and David had a traditional Scottish breakfast. Which would be haggis, eggs, black pudding, sausage and a potato scone.

So yeah, black pudding. I should've known something was up when I heard Catherine and Gemma beg to tell me what the "pudding" was made of (that David had so kindly offered a bite of). I asked them to hold off a second while I finished chewing. I happened to like the stuff. But then I was told something I could have easily gone without hearing. Fried pig's blood. That's what it was. I shit you not.

Next in line was an underground tour of one small part of 1700's Edinburgh. Turns out, Scotland was hit by the black plague. And various parts of the city remain intact, underground, and can be entered. Our tour guide told us stories of the living conditions during the time and of various supernatural occurrences. In one particular room (a pagan temple) I volunteered myself as the brave soul that would hop inside a circle of rocks. Which happened to be trapping evil spirits from escape.

Then I stepped into an area of a vault haunted by poltergeists. Boo! And took a picture in this same room of a frightened Gemma and Catherine. Only thing is, my flash wasn't supposed to work. Evil spirits apparently didn't wish to hold my creative inspiration back, I guess.

At this point, we were tired; so we headed to the car and drove home. Then David and I went to a pub with some of his old buddies at around nine. I had four pints of Carlsberg and managed to maintain some sense of composure. I did my best to try to comprehend what was being said, but managed to fall short mostly. So I tuned out a bit. Then somehow the issue of gun control came up. I think I managed to hold a decent conversation at this point. And then we were off our separate ways.

David and I headed home. On the way, we were flashed twice by an automated camera. We reckon David was going 45 in a 30. Problem is, we both thought the speed limit was 40. A ticket should arrive in the mail in about two working weeks. I don't think Gemma's granpa will be too happy about this. It'll probably be in his name, considering he's the lucky owner of the car.

Thursday, 2002-12-26


Christmas was a success. After a couple of days of last minute shopping and wrapping the excitement of gift-giving finally hit. Sometimes it is hard to see the point of getting gifts for others. Often you end up spending roughly the same amount on those that give you gifts as you spend on them. I have had this pessimistic view for a while.

All changed yesterday morning. I woke up before gift-exchanging time with the same butterflies I went to sleep with. That adrenaline which comes before giving those you care for those things that took so much effort in finding. My problem is that I have always been very honest about gifts that I was disappointed in.

As it turns out, the gifts were often exactly what I had wanted at one point or another, and those around me took the time to notice.

This Christmas, I have been given gifts that took quite a bit of effort to pick out. If you haven't noticed, I am a wee bit difficult to shop for. To tell you the truth, I couldn't be any more ecstatic about any single one of them than I am now. The day AFTER Christmas! Boxing day.

Tuesday, 2002-12-24

pounds might actually make cents

For years I have emptied loose change in my pockets at the end of the day into some sort of piggy bank. No matter the coinage. Looking at my change before leaving, it was realized that I should probably deposit it all into my bank. My best estimate as to the amount of change I have is around sixty to seventy-five dollars.

Today I found out that the smallest paper note in the UK is £5 (five pounds). Therefore, when I buy anything and have less than £5 to be given back, that means a heck of a lot of pennies (change). Considering the fact that pounds are valued more than the all-mighty dollar (about $1.55 per £1) that would add up to quite a bit of money, and quickly. This would be an easy way for me to save money, without making a conscious effort to do so.

Just a random thought.

it's official

God does piss on Scotland.

Monday, 2002-12-23

next stop: glasgow

Today I rode Scottish Rail from East Kilbride (where Gemma's grandparents live) to Glasgow. We (being Gemma, her parents, sister and I) spent most of the day walking around downtown and into various department stores. Let me tell you, there were a lot of them. At one point I decided to go on a mission to find some shoes. For some reason, I have always got the impression (mainly from men's fashion magazines) that shoes in the UK both are designed and look the best. Turns out there happens to be one problem. Scottish people are apparently small. As Gemma and her family have often pointed out. This means small shoes. Some might know that I wear a size 15. This is unheard of in Scotland. So no luck. It's a shame too. I found so many pairs that I would have been more than willing to buy.

After we had wasted quite a few hours shopping, we headed to meet up with Gemma's grandparents. Shockingly, they were late (albeit by like three minutes). We started heading down a main street with the mission of going to the first Indian restaurant we saw. That one happened to be Kama Sutra. And the food was so sensual, I mean great. Next we headed to The King's Theater to see Aladdin in pantomime format. Here's a summary of the panto we saw:

Evil Sorcerer, Abanazer, sets out to steal the magic lamp from its rightful owner, Aladdin, and use the awesome power of the Genie for his own evil ends. With the help of his barmy mammy, Widow Twankey and his dim-witted brother, Wishee Washee, can Aladdin foil the Scorcerer's wicked schemes while at the same time keeping out of the clutches of the Emperor's deadly and dumb Palace Guards?

Interesting I must say, the whole panto experience was (think Yoda).

Sunday, 2002-12-22

a pint, uk pop, and some rain

Today I had the pleasure of experiencing a pint of Guinness. As of today, for the first time in my life, I have officially ordered draft on tap. Nevermind the fact that I had to make a fool of myself beforehand. I asked the bartender if he had a Black and Tan. Which happens to be half Bass Ale and Guinness draft. Neither myself, the bartender, the pub proprietor, or David (Gemma's dad) could remember the Bass Ale part at the time, though. Apparently we all blanked. All this is somewhat understandable. What I realized after asking the bartender about it about five times was that I was being a pushy American. I can't avoid my accent. But I have tried my best to not let my American-ness show through my actions.

On that note. I do have a point to make. Americans have a lot to learn from the rest of the world. And I have often realized this both in the states and now in the UK. Most recently at home while watching Bowling for Columbine. All this may be. But one thing is for certain. British music is horrid! I pride myself on not being culturally arrogant. So I mean this in a most serious of manner: UK's music is both silly and pointless. The number three hit today: Touch My Bum, by the Cheeky Girls. I think just saying that states my point perfectly.

The last thing I wanted to mention is that rain seems to only exist here when I am in for the night or inside a mode of transportation. Such as in the car today, or on the plane coming into Glasgow. Until I am actually being pissed on by God (as Gemma puts in politely) I refuse to believe that it actually rains in Scotland.

Saturday, 2002-12-21

in scotland

After about sixteen hours of traveling, and a couple of close calls, Gemma's family and I finally made it to Scotland. I guess really only one close call. But a pretty big one. We had intended to leave Austin Bergstrom at around 14:00 and were there on time. Only problem was that the weather in New Jersey wasn't cooperating. This wouldn't have been a problem, except for the fact that our plane to Glasgow was set for take off two hours after our arrival at Newark, if all was running smoothly.

Every minute that we were delayed only lessened our chance of making it to our second leg of the trip in time. At one point I remember thinking we actually had a chance, if we were to make a run for it in Newark International. But then all of our hopes seemed to be shot. The captain announced that we needed to wait ten minutes on our runway to correct timing issues the airport seemed to be having.

The flight went smoothly. And we thought we might possibly still have a fighting chance. If we ran. So we took off. I ran no holds barred nearly the entire way. My backpack seemed to cause my run to debilitate into a trudge, near the end. When I finally saw our gate, I couldn't believe my eyes. The plane hadn't even boarded yet!

So, enough of that. Everything was okay.

On to other transportation issues. People drive on the left side of the road! Insanity. Being a passenger in the front left hand side of the car is unreal. And seeing a passenger on the left side constantly looking out the window makes me nervous. Even though I often stopped to tell myself that she (Gemma's grandma, that is) wasn't driving.

I am butt ass tired from traveling and staying up all night to compensate for a six hour time difference. So off to bed.

Friday, 2002-12-20


Some unspecified time today, I will be in a plane on my way to Newark International Airport. New Jersey is not my final destination, however. Scotland is. You in Braveheart. There I will spend two weeks with family. Gemma's side. I will make every attempt to journal the events of the trip. All the while attempting to refrain from using the Internet for other purposes. Here goes something.

Saturday, 2002-12-07

url redundancy

I recently put a link to Big Business in my post about the Green Party. Of course I linked to the Fortune 500. In navigating to the listing of the top 500 revenue making companies in the U.S. I realized that the sites' web addresses were a little redundant. Every directory is inside of a directory named "fortune." This is unnecessary because there is no need to use the word again when it is already in the domain name. Count the fortunes in this example. Three times!

Another site that rubs me the wrong way is The Webby Awards. All files are found in a directory named "main." Kind of ironic that a site that grades and awards other sites serves it's web pages off of an unnecessary directory.

Sorry for the rant; my novice web-designing ability really leaves me no room to talk.

Friday, 2002-12-06

silly aggies

Leave it to the Aggies to make fools of themselves in print. The sad part is that they will read the article that I read and not realize what the rest of the world would. In the past, they waited for a dog to arrive in College Station. Not just any dog though. This was Reveille, the highest ranking officer in the Aggie Corp. Waiting for their new coach...I respect that. Aggieland has been in a state of frenzy ever since Slocum was fired. Keep both of those thoughts in mind when you read this:

Not since the aircraft shuttling the newest Reveille rolled through Texas A&M's Easterwood Airport had the arrival of a plane been so highly anticipated.

This time there was no four-legged canine on board but a two-legged human whom the Aggie faithful are pinning their hopes on to rejuvenate the A&M football program.

Wednesday, 2002-12-04

i'm dirty

Call me a pervert, but this is just too much. I have to agree with Pinder.

Monday, 2002-12-02

the royal tenenbaums

The Royal Tenenbaums is an incredible movie. I think one of the reasons I like it so much is because the humor is offbeat and subtle. I've seen it a couple times and will eventually splurge and get it on DVD. Along with the rest of Wes Anderson's flicks.

What led me to plug the movie though, is its tagline. Which I believe to be the funniest I have ever heard. I exaggerate on occasion, but this is no exaggeration. Okay, enough filler. Here it is: "Family isn't a word. It's a sentence." Probably not as exciting as I made it out to be...but hey. Such is Jonathan.