Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Well, it’s nearly 9pm on a Tuesday night. By all rights I should be at the local swing dance, but I’m instead in my room with wine and knitting. Why? Well, yesterday was BenAndHelen’s dance lesson. I went, as I do, to the intermediate lesson. Their first move involved the follow (that would be me) crouching to the floor, ducking under the lead’s arm, and jumping up again. It’s a sexy move, but when your legs aren’t prepared for such heights of physical exertion, as mine weren’t, you might not feel so good when it’s over. Especially when you’re the only woman there (aside, of course, from Helen), as this means you get to do the move again and again and again. The other men paired up with each other when I was occupied with someone, but I was in high demand. Instead of saying “Follows rotate” as they usually do in class they just said “Emily rotate.” Grand!

My right thigh, however, started hurting during the lesson, into the next moves and into the beginner lesson as well, which was in need of a few more women (this, for the curious, is highly unusual – there are almost always more women than men), and into the social dancing as well.

And oh ho ho, trying to walk around today? Hilarious. Steps hurt, hills hurt (anything going down, really), and every fifty feet or so my leg gives out, causing me to wobble in a desperate attempt to keep balance. I went to the bookstore and attempted to sit on the floor in the knitting section so I could see if they had any new books (they didn’t) and oh it hurt! What fun!

I would’ve gone to the dance, actually, if Jacqui was going. That way I could hang out with people and not be stuck at home (right, I can stay home all day and be happy as a pig in mud, but the one time I should to stay home I’m “stuck”). Unfortunately, she’s not going tonight. And it’s too far to walk just to hang out. So here I am. Damn.

Now where’s that wine?

Okay then.

I went on another tour on, oh, Nov 12th or so. Not with the Haggis group, thank you, but another, smaller group catering to people with sense. Up to the Trossachs, Loch Lomond, then finishing up at Stirling Castle.

The Trossachs are a national park, Loch Lomond is a relatively famous lake, and Stirling Castle… is a castle.

We drove through the Trossachs and heard the usual Rob Roy/ William Wallace/ Robert the Bruce stories.

The birches were forming purple buds on the tips, so if you looked over an expanse of trees it had a lovely violet haze to it. I learned that traditional kilts – the kind that involve the section thrown over the shoulder – are also one’s bedding. You just wrap right up in it and nestle down in the heather and you were relatively warm for the night.

Our guide informed us of the man who had once been proclaimed the worst poet ever. He goes by the name of McGonagall (or similar). Here’s the poem that claimed him the title, including linguistic footnotes For Your Convenience:

Upon the hill there was a coo1,
He must’ve moved, he’s not there noo2.

1 Cow. In this case, Scottish highlands cow. The hairy, horned variety.
2 Now.

I thoroughly enjoy it, personally.

Next we drove up to Loch Lomond, where we piled into a boat to tool around the lake. You’ve likely heard of Loch Lomond, though you may not realize it. You know the song, “You take the high road and I’ll take the low road”? The lyrics go like this:

You take the high road and I’ll take the low road,
and I’ll get to Scotland before you.
For something something never see my true love and me,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Here’s the word on the song. Back in the 17th century the Jacobites (supporters of James II) were under the impression that when you die your spirit goes underground to join your family, wherever they may be. So two brothers or possibly friends, went off to do something like fight somewhere outside of Scotland as they did in those days. One of those two, imbued with an admirable calmness, was fated to die along the journey, and wrote the song. Taking the low road meant his spirit traveling underground (as the groundhog burrows, if you will), immediately returning to Scotland and thus beating his friend/brother back. And, being dead, would not, of course, see his true love again. But the important thing is that he got there first.

There was a good amount of wildlife – particularly birds – that I enjoyed watching. Other than that… I wasn’t entirely impressed. Maybe it’s more dramatic in the spring/summer, but it didn’t seem all that different from any other loch that I’d seen. Lots of big houses on the shores. I did my best to stay warm, while occasionally darting out to the deck to survey the view.

(Ow, my leg.)

Then into a little town for lunch, where I ate macaroni and cheese at a little pub, then went over to a wool centre where I expected they would have the exact same variety of sweaters that every other place has, as well as a disappointing lack of yarn.

But oh! They had yarn! Delicious, delicious yarn! I bought three skeins of this incredible cream-colored wool, and a large skein of beautiful variegated red yarn. I was a happy, happy camper.

Finally we hit Stirling castle, which is huge and full of twists and turns and a large number of rooms. My jaw dropped at the demonstration of tapestry weaving, which seems to be some kind of rocket science with string. It’s that complicated. They showed photos of a section of tapestry panels about people hunting down a unicorn and explained how it was an allegory for Christianity (Jesus is the unicorn).

Before you ask, I’ve already written Dan Brown about making it the sequel to The Da Vinci Code. He said he’s already working on something, but that he’d keep it in mind for the future.

There are all sorts of nooks and crannies in which to get lost, and it was a nice time, wandering around. And then back to the bus and home again.

Later that week I did some touristy things around E-burgh. I went back up to Calton hill, and went to the local art museum, where they’re having what they call “Choice,” which means they have a little bit of just about everything – classical paintings all the way to modern art, which I generally do not understand. Most notable was the Three Graces, which is a stunning piece of marble-work. I expected the women in the statue to roll their shoulders and ask if it was time for their break yet.

I tried out two new restaurants as well. The first is a Thai restaurant called Thai Me Up, which is noteworthy at least because of the name. But the food is exquisite and is beautifully presented. I went with a friend and we shared chicken satay (I could happily drink peanut sauce), a lamb and pineapple curry and sweet and sour chicken. It was all fantastic.

I also went to a restaurant called Mama Roma, which I was keen to try because I’d noted one afternoon that at least two people who worked there were authentically Italian. They had a killer bruchetta (which is, in fact, pronounced bru-SKETTA and not bru-SHETTA) and the best linguini carbonara I’ve ever had. This was a serious, serious cream sauce. The staff was incredibly attentive, going so far as to help me put my jacket on.

If I was more comfortable going to nice restaurants alone I wouldn’t eat anywhere but those two places. Alas, not so much. As my time here draws to a close, though, I might start to consider it.

And it is getting close. Yeek.

1 comment:

Beyond Joy said...

Thai Me Up eh?... That sounds like a fun place to... ...eat. I have started to savour well plated food, although I do not like it if it is too well well plated, are just well plated and but filling. In my humble opinion, a good dining experience needs three characteristics, tasty, well plaited, and filling. If you have ever been to Salsa in Asheville, it has all three. If you have not, I suggest that you go...

See you around,

Visitor Count (hi!)