Friday, September 23, 2005

Now that I have a place to live my life has drastically achieved a startling amount of stagnancy. My big outing for the day was to go to the Gaughan exhibit at the Royal Scotland Gallery, or whatever it is they call it. Perfectly reasonable way to spend part of the day, except that I turned around when I saw it was £6.50 to get in. I am far too cheap at the moment to pay $13 to walk around a large building and look at paintings that I could easily find online.

Negative 1000 culture points for me. I hope you’re keeping track.

I could’ve gone to the Nicholas and Alexandra (the Russian czar and czarina, made interesting by my well-missed high school history teacher) exhibit at another museum, but didn’t feel like walking so far.

Instead I walked all the way down Prince’s street (a decent hike from my place of residence) with a goal of finding the rumored Sainsbury’s – reputably a nice large supermarket. Or hypermarket, as they French call it, which is, I think, a way better name. Instead I found a… Sainfield. Sunfield. Sludgefield. I don’t remember, some supermarket that started with an S that worked well enough for my needs. However, having bought food yesterday this is just a point of note for me. It’s a haul to get there, but there’s plenty of good-seeming food.

And I went to Waterstone’s and bought a couple of books, having finished the two I brought with me. I got a student discount card (10% off, oh yes). Fear my student ID! I fully believe it is the source of all my power. I probably shouldn’t let too many people know that. Don’t tell anyone, okay?

In lieu of spending £6.50 on a museum I instead spent almost twice that on books. But I’m fine with that.

And I came home and read and now I’m experiencing the pinnacle of traveling life: laundry. Until I can go out to the same old internet bar, have a beer and post this entry. Then come home, read more, and – hold onto your hats – go to bed.

I do still have anecdotes to share, though.

It would be... Tuesday when I went into the Royal Theatre Pub – it’s next to a theatre and the walls are covered with signed posters from various shows and bands that apparently appeared locally. I’d been there once before and had a rather good pasta dish. I sat at a table for a while, not being served (they really need a steadfast rule about whether or not you should order at the bar), before realizing that their kitchen might be closed.

It was. The bartender, an attractive Scot, mentioned a place that would be serving good food and gave me directions. I instantly forgot the name of the place (which I do anyway, but the accents usually ensure that I don’t know the name in the first place) but found Baroque, where I’ve spent the past few nights, basking in the free-ness of their wireless internet.

The bartender, Graham, told me to come back and let him know if I liked the food. I did, and ordered a beer. I sat down at a table, thinking I’d just have my beer, do my own thing, and then head out. I chatted with Graham when he would pass my table, and then got invited over to the table next to me. It was occupied by two Texans, Dallas (really) and Chris[tine] who were on vacation together. We spent the next four hours chatting and making friends with Graham, Zoë the manager, and um… the other bartender who is from Australia. They would come sit with us when they had breaks. And I’m realizing that for as much fun as we had I don’t have much to say about it. We talked about mass media and Scotland – where we’d been and where we wanted to go.

Dallas’ outgoing nature led us to be invited to hang out and drink after the pub closed. We stayed until 2am, and then promised to come back the next day.

And Wednesday evening I found myself back at the bar. I got there before the Texans and sat with Graham, who was on his dinner break, and the cook who had finished his workday. The cook, whose name I have, of course, forgotten, bought me a beer and I talked with them a while. Dallas and Chris showed up and we retreated to the same table from the evening before. We were all tired and the impulsive buzz from the night before had worn off. We still had a good time, and it was good to be able to have a familiar chat with familiar people.

Chris and Dallas left this morning, and I didn’t get to say goodbye. Thus the problem with being friends with travelers. I stopped in front of the pub last night, seeing Graham in the window. He saw me and winked as I waved, and I headed home.

I managed to rig up an ingenious fastening device to the shade for the bare bulb in my room (I found a twist-tie and used that to secure the lantern to the cord)(without falling on my face). Then I went out to the community centre down the road where swing dancing was presumed to take place. Déjà vu, anyone?

I tried to not get my hopes up, but had a hard time when I saw that there were actually lights on this time. I walked in and there were a gaggle of people learning the 20’s Charleston.

Oh, life was good. I chatted with the few people sitting out, and tried to figure out why there wasn’t anyone there the last time I’d been there.

I think what happened, and oh, if this is the case it’s kind of embarrassing, is that my watch lied to me. My watch, when I change the time, will occasionally confuse noon and midnight, which then means that the date will change at the wrong time. I think it might’ve been the 15th or 17th when I thought it was the 16th.


But there was going to be a half hour of free dancing and then they would go into the intermediate class. I put on my shoes and when the beginner’s lesson ended I walked into the jumbling mess of people, hoping that someone would ask me to dance because I was completely shy. They all seemed to know each other and I didn’t know anyone and it was awkward. For me.

A song or two in, someone asked me to dance. We ended up dancing three times because we kept talking and when a song is playing and no one else has asked you to dance it’s silly not to start yourself. Then someone else asked me to dance, and he was rather good. I was getting back into the swing of the dance (har!) no, I can’t write that groove of dancing and was feeling better.

People circled up for the intermediate class and I decided to stay. A gentleman who reminded me distractingly of Paul walked up and stood next to me, introducing himself. Allen. I was surprised and pleased at his un-self-conscious introduction, because I certainly wasn’t feeling that confident.

The lesson was fun. An older crowd than I usually see in North Carolina and even Pennsylvania, but they had the same joking manners that we do in the state. Well, not totally the same; we’re a little saucier than they were. They seemed kind and I’m thrilled at the prospect of having a place to go where I’ll know people and they’ll know me. And dancing! It feels so good.

Turns out there’s a Tuesday night swing dance here. It’s seeming that Tuesday will be my perpetual dance night. It’s a little ways from here – walkable, though – but only a pound for three hours of dancing. And there are workshops coming up that I’d like to attend. I’m really glad to have something consistent to do and look forward to.

Other things of note:

1. The shower here is far easier to understand. No knob to fuss with, just a power button (a power button?) and two dials. On is temperature, but the slightest touch to the left makes the water freezing regardless of whether it’s pointing to red or blue. The other is low/medium/high. I don’t really understand what it means, but medium seems to work for me.

2. You cannot escape bagpipe music here. If it’s not coming from a street performer (they seem to constantly be adjusting the pipes, not that I can tell any difference in the music when they do that) then it’s coming from one of the kilt/Scottish paraphernalia stores, of which there is at least one every three stores, all of which blare bagpipe music constantly. They also sell whisky, which I imagine is why they still have people working there. It makes me smile every time because Hans hates bagpipe music and will be here (that is, Scotland) in a week.

3. This weather is ridiculous. Walking down the street there are people in t-shirts and others in jacket, scarf, and hat. I personally go through any of those things walking to any of the local food-gathering places. It’s rather pleasant until there’s a breeze and then I’m pulling out my jacket. Or pulling it off if I’m going up a hill, of which there are too damn many. Fucking hills.

4. There are no glasses in this house that I actively want to drink out of. They’re all permanently cloudy, and that makes me a little nervous. I think I might need to buy one of my own. But my room is so clean, not that that’s related! This might have something to do with the fact that I don’t have much of anything in the manner of clothes but do have two dressers. I think I could keep one piece of clothing in its own drawer or shelf.

5. I’m off to the pub.

6. These people really will think I'm crazy. I'm at the pub and since there was no seating inside I had to sit outside to use my computer and fucking hell it's so cold. Even the guinness doesn't quite help. I'm glad I wrote this post in my room.

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