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September 2005 Archives

September 30, 2005

PSA: Vote for Mark!

My very dear friend, Mark Cappis, is up for a job at Sonic 102.9!

Mark, aka The Scarecrow, was voted Primitive Radio God at Augustana, which is where we met. While there, he hosted Chaos in a Box, his excellent weekly radio show, and found in himself a passion for all things radio related. After spending a year in Japan teaching English, he came back to Edmonton, went to NAIT for a year, and got his Radio Personality Something or other. (Because, although I adore him, I can't for the life of me remember what his degree is in. Because I *suck*.)

And now, he's up for a covetted newscaster job at Sonic!

Why am I telling you this? Because, according to their website, they are letting listeners pick a Wildcard Spot for one of their finalists in the news divison. And I want YOU to listen to Mark, encourage him, and vote for him when the time arises! (And, if you can, pimp it on your own blog/website, because votes can come in from anywhere, and you can listen to it all online, and because frankly, Scarecrow rocks and you should be reading his stuff anyway.)

Mark talks about the radio spots he recorded for this here, and you can listen to his "spot", although it's a slow load on my computer. (It's an mp3 file.)

I'm sure Mark will blog about the whole experience. (Yes, Mark, that's a hint.) His day on the radio (if you're in Edmonton) is the morning of Wednesday, October 5. Listen to him, tell him he's wonderful, and when the chance comes up (which is later in the month): Vote Scarecrow!

September 29, 2005

Water Tour

The last truly touristy thing I did in Paris was take in one of the Bateau Mouche tours. The basic run down is that a really big boat (with a lot of people on it) sails up and down the river in Paris, and tells you a bit about the the history on either side. My guide book describes taking one as the "only way to get away from the obnoxious noise" of them.

I didn't find the noise obnoxious, just remarkably pointless.

The annoucements (when you could hear them) were in three languages (French, English, and Spanish), and usually by the time you could understand what was being said, you were past the thing you wanted to look at. The one I took was quite uncomfortable to sit still on, as well.

But, ignore that, it was fun. I took it last time I was in Paris, and it was interesting to take it this time. For example, there were a lot more people this time. (Of course, last time, it was early Spring, and this is the heart of tourist season. I've been told that any Parisian who can afford it heads out of Paris for the summer to get away from the heat and the hordes of tourists. I can completely believe this - the heat is oppresive. I won't go into the tourists.)

It was quite relaxing, since I had spent most of the time I was in Paris walking everywhere, and this gave me the sense that the interesting stuff was coming to me. I tried to take some pictures (not many - I just finally gave up because the boats do move quite quickly, but a few photos managed to look nice), but mostly I just tried to enjoy the views.

There was a lot of waving at people on the bridges (which was fun), waving at people in other boats, and generally being silly. I made a valiant attempt to speak French to a pair of little girls that were running around playing tag on the deck, but one of them assured me quite seriously that she only spoke French, so she couldn't understand what I was saying. *grin*

Would I recommend it to someone else? If they had time, and wanted to relax a bit while looking at the city. I'll admit, the tour made me think "Damn it, I missed that!" a lot, and afterwards had to remind myself that, for only being in the city for a couple of days, I made a very good run at seeing the things I wanted to see. And, as I keep saying, it's not going anywhere. I could hop on a train and be in Paris tomorrow if I really wanted to.

The whole thing was tinged with a bit of sorrow, though, since I figured that my adventures were done.

I'm so cute when I'm wrong.

September 28, 2005

Nothing like a familiar face

I recently read Chocolat, a book where the main character has spent a lot of her childhook and part of her adulthood moving from place to palce in a very gypsy like lifestyle. She's talking to someone who has spent her whole life in one tiny town, someone who is jealous of her for having lived so much and seen so much.

And she thinks to herself, "But when you see so much, you realize that all the faces are the same."

It's not quite that cold hearted, but it's true in a sense. It's not that I see the same faces everywhere I go, but that I'm constantly looking in other faces for glimpses of those I've left behind.

I followed Kris down the street for four blocks, thinking of all the ways he could have possibly gotten into the country before he turned around and it wasn't him.

I caught a glimpse of Shani crossing the street when I was in the bus, and almost got off the bus to see if it could, maybe, be her.

I thought I saw Linette when I was in Paris, and actually had to bite my tongue to keep from calling out to her. But for a moment, that hope fluttered so deeply in my chest.

It's strange. I'm not lonely here, not anymore. I've gotten involved in quite a few things, met people I genuinely like, and have gotten back to work. But it's that shared history you have with people, the in-jokes that you remember, those are the things I miss right now. And when I catch a familiar face, or a profile I remember, or hear a voice that sounds oddly familiar, it squeezes at my heart.

September 26, 2005

Our Lady of Chartres

I will get a few things that went wrong out of the way first:

1) It was raining, and when it wasn't raining, it was very cloudy.
2) I missed my first train.
3) There were no tours running that day becuase someone was married in the Cathedral earlier in the morning.
4) The famous labrynth was covered in chairs, likely for the same reason.

There, the boring stuff is out of the way.

Chatres was mind-blowing in ways that Notre Dame just... wasn't. Part of it is, of course, I've been to Notre Dame before. I may not have remembered all of it, but I did have that constant feeling of recognizition there. In Chatres, I had none of that.

My understanding is Chatres was the fastest built of the Chathedrals, and you can actually see the way the artistic style developed as it was built. Where the front part of the cathedral shows the painfully solid and unlifelike figures in straight up and down poses, the sides show the changes up to lifelike and realistic figures in obvious reaction to the world around them. It's an amazing change, and one that is almost unbelievable.

The two main towers also show the obvious differences, as each is done in a different style.

Chartres was... well, like the rest of my trip, it was wonderful. I didn't see much of Chatres (the town, that is), but it had a feeling like a very friendly village. The Cathedral is an easy walk from the train station, and the train trip itself is wonderful and relaxing. I really enjoyed the chance to look at the French countryside (so disturbingly like the Canadian countryside), and take the quiet opportunity to write a few postcards.

Walking up to the Cathedral that I'd read about a few times was amazing. I wish I could put into words what it was like to have to look up... and up... and up... to see this beautiful building. I spent the first 40 minutes or so I was there just walking around the outside, and I think I would have counted the cost of the trip a small one even if I wasn't able to see the inside.

But that would have been a shame.

As usual, I have no pictures of the inside, as it is a working Cathedral. It wasn't the same awe inspiring sense that Notre Dame gave me. It was quite different. The point of the building seemed to be making one feel small in the presence of God. When you first walk into it, you get this sense of overwhelming distance between yourself and the holiest of holies.

The rest of it, with its huge stained glass windows and the way the walls and ceilings just overwhelm you has the same effect. The point is to feel small and insignifigant, and it succeeds admirably at this.

I was able to get some small hint of the labrynth, even covered with chairs as it was. I believe (but could be wrong) that it is the only labrynth to survive in a church from that time period. It's carved into the floor, and one is supposed to walk it while contemplating the nature of God, I would assume. I was actually looking forward to doing thing. Although I'm not a religious person (I don't believe in God), I am a thoughtful person, and the idea of contemplating God and religion and faith in that setting was something I wanted.

But, life goes on, and I will be there another day. Of this I am certain.

The train back was quiet, and I slept the whole way to Paris. I had a few more things I wanted to do, at least on this trip, and I could already feel the minutes ticking away before I would have to leave.

{The rest of the pictures are here on my flickr account.}

Cooking Overseas

So, my breadbook arrived a few weeks ago, and I started baking bread again this weekend. Which would be a good thing, I assume, except for a few minor problems.

First, my breadbook, since it was published in North America, gives all of its cooking temperatures in Faranheit. My oven is in Celcius.

Second, my breadbook gives measurements in as small an amount as 1/16th of a tsp. The smallest I've been able to find in measuring spoons (so far) has been 1/2 of a tsp.

From there, we have the Indian Cookbook I got myself a few weeks ago. That one only gives its measurements in weight, whereas I'm used to things in volume. I guestimated on a few things, did a bit of converstions on a few other things, and yesterday I finally caved and bought a kitchen scale. It seems that here, it's very standard to give weights in cookbooks, not cups or teaspoons or whatnots.

I'm really quite surprised at the things I didn't know about before I left.

In related news: Yummy homemade bread!

September 24, 2005

Seasonal Culture

I think the strangest thing about living in a new country (or province, for that matter) is how the seasons are different than one is used to. Right now, I'm looking at photos from people back in Canada that have the leaves bright red and orange and yellow, and hearing stories about the crunching sound when you walk and the bite of cold in the air.

Here, the leaves on the trees behind the building are still bright and vivid green, and there's no sense that they'll be falling any time soon.

I always associate "school starting" with leaves and that first bite of winter. I was rather shocked to see the kids in their uniforms (a lot more of them than I ever saw back in Canada) so "early". It's not fall yet, what are they doing back in school?

I suspect that, when I get to Australia and New Zealand, I'll be so confused I'll forget to function, and just swelter in the hot summer heat while wearing a Christmas sweater.

How I Am A History Fan Girl This Week

How I Am A History Fan Girl This Week, an expanded list, by jo

1. Cardiff Castle did not fascinate me because it has pretty pretty rooms (although it does). Cardiff Castle did not fascinate me because it has a big Norman Keep in the center that you can climb up to the top of (although dude, cool, and I didn't fall off, which is even cooler). Cardiff Castle fascinated me because it had stained glass windows and paintings that depicted the history of the British Monarchy, starting back with the Civil War between Empress Matilda and King Steven, and went from there. A famous painting of Richard III hangs in the library. There are windows showing George of Clarence, who married Isabelle Neville. There are historical footnotes throughout the whole beautiful place, and I went absolutely nuts over every one of them.

2. The guide running the tour made multiple comments about how he thought I was going to start hyperventalating. When the tour was over, he pulled me aside to apologize that there just wasn't enough time to go over all the things I was obviously caught up in, as the tour did not point out a single one of them. They're just little side notes along the way, as I said. Even strangers look at me and think "wow, she's a bit nutty."

3. I am currently in the middle of reading an historic book tracing the lives of Henry VIII's wives. And I'm on the edge of my seat reading this. Please note: I've written essays on this topic, I've read about a dozen books on it, there are sections that are quoted that I've seen so often I'm able to know what they say before I get to the end, and yet... totally caught up in it. Oh my, will Henry get the divorce and be able to legally wed Anne before the baby? What will happen to Catherine? And poor little Mary, will she be branded a bastard? I'm turning the pages as quickly as I can. I hope that Anne gives birth to a boy.

4. I wrote the author of said book to tell her that I am madly, deeply and truly in love with her, and am now going to go out and buy all her historic books. Because they are just that well written.

My name is Anna, I am a geek.

September 23, 2005

Red and White and Sore All Over

Oh dear lord....

I thought I was doing really well. I mean, I do a lot of walking on my trips. I keep forgetting I have limitations, and just go all over the place, chasing after anything that captures my fancy. I forget, on a regular basis, that I will feel it in the morning.

But yesterday I was fine. No real sore spots, nothing really aching more than the typical "after a good workout" aching from Cardiff. I figured everything would be okay, that I was getting more endurance after all.

I am so cute when I'm wrong.

Today, I'm not sure if my legs are ever going to forgive me. I hurt. It was a struggle to get from the bed to the computer, and the computer is only in the next room.

I also managed to get my first sunburn when travelling. It's a funny story, that. Everyplace else I've travelled, I've brought my beloved floppity sun hat. And, everytime I've travelled, it's kept my glasses from getting covered in water. On the way out the door on Tuesday, I looked at my hat (still a bit damp from the last time I'd been out - oh, my optimism about the weather in this country!) and decided to leave it behind.

Which meant Wales was the first place I've travelled to where it didn't rain or get cloudy the whole time.

(It was, however, cloudy when I left Edinburgh. It was also cloudy and raining when I came back. I do adore this country, but it is a wee bit damp.)

I have a lovely sunburn (complete with racoon eyes of white) all over my face, and parts of my arms are not the lovely white they usually are. It's... surreal, to put it mildly. I've been avoiding the sun as much as possible for years, because I like being pale. (Helps with my goth cred, don'tcha know.)

Ah well. At least it made the views from the top of the castle spectacular. And although my face is feeling very warm, it doesn't hurt. It's just... red. All the time.


September 21, 2005

Love Story

Just got back in from Cardiff. I'm sore but very content with the world. The trip was outstanding, and I must go back again. I'm already planning it.

I think I have to admit that I've fallen madly in love with the UK.

September 20, 2005


I'm at a very nice youth hostel in Cardiff right now. This keyboard sucks, though. Gah.

Anyway. I went to Cardiff Castle today and now I have to just die. You see, everything after this is going to be an amazing letdown.

September 19, 2005

It's still International Talk Like a Pirate Day

My pirate name is Captain Anne Rackham

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from fidius.org.

I'm torn: Is this better or worse than Captain Stripey Socks? Or Apple?

Happy The End of International Pirate Day, everyone. Arrr, I am a saucy wench!


I'm packing my bag for tomorrow's trip down to Cardiff, and I'm quite enjoying one thing about living in the UK: It is possible to do any city here as a daytrip.

Cardiff will be about an hour long flight. I'm leaving tomorrow morning around 9 a.m. I could do a bunch of things I wanted to do and take the night flight home, and be back sleeping in my own bed by midnight. It would even be a reasonably priced flight.

But, I'm eager to do more than just the big highlights, and I can't stand the idea of being in Wales for such a little time. It was a very close thing, the choice between Edinburgh and Cardiff, and I'm not sure even now if I made the right decision.

Wales has been the country that has captured my imagination the most in recent years. Some time ago I started reading Sharon Kay Penman, and her book Here be Dragons ignited an interest. As well, my favorite teacher, Dr. Epp, spent some of his career at Cardiff before coming to small town Alberta, and for some reason I like the idea of writing him to say I'm there, too. The idea of being able to explore it thoroughly, to be able to learn how to say all those place names....

And tomorrow morning I get to touch down in this city, and I can't tell you how excited I am. I'll be back late Wednesday night.

Aaaa Matey

Today is "Talk like a Pirate Day."

Sadly, I am sicker than a scurvy dog, and can't enjoy it.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of milk and all that....

September 18, 2005

The Ex-Pat Experience

This is very long, but I think it's a good read. Just in case, though, I'll sum it up for you:

You get out what you put in. So you probably want to go with a sense of humour.

Continue reading "The Ex-Pat Experience" »

September 17, 2005


So, my dear friend Mel has just finished her citizenship test. Although she won't be a Canadian citizen until she's taken the Oath to the Queen, she can soon start enjoying Maple Syrup, saying 'aboot', and listening to Arrogant Worms.

I'll admit it, I don't quite understand it entirely. I mean, don't get me wrong - I love being Canadian. It's marvelous. But I don't understand the desire to give up citizenship of your native land. I don't quite know what happens at that point.

As it is, in order to keep my Canadian citizenship over the next bunch of years, I need to keep paying Canadian taxes (oh yay, with the exchange rate I'm going to get munched) and fill out some paperwork. If I'm not careful, I could have to return to the country as an immigrant. I don't think this is too likely to happen, though.

Then, of course, there's my favorite rapscallion, who is officially a Dutch Citizen now. His passport is all ready and waiting for him. No, he's never lived in Holland, and apparently has only visited there once, but he can proudly carry that passport until he turns 29. Then, apparently, he needs to make his own choices about what he wants.

I don't know what I think, really. I mean, I could, conceivably, settle down here and get my British Citizenship and be a happy little Scottish Lass or whatever. And being a member of the EU could make my longterm life goals a lot easier.

But I *like* Canada. I like being Canadian. I hate that I can't seem to be both.

September 15, 2005


So, I spent most of yesterday convinced I was going to die unemployed and unloved and that I was going to be doomed to a life of eating catfood. Because I get melodramatic like that.

Now I have four job interviews booked for the next two business days.



Anyway. I have become suddenly very grateful for having MT instead of blogger now. For example, today I was going through the log file for my entries (just out of curiosity, because I am really.really.bored and heaven's forfend I do something useful with my time), and it turns out there are a *lot* of spam sites wanting to leave comments on my blog entries. And MT keeps blocking them with one of its plugins. Yay MT!

And I discovered that the highest score for finding my blog is no longer "cornacopia", but "wife wanted". I think someone must be disappointed.

I've done a lot of things in Scotland over the past few weeks, but I want to finish writing everything up about France first. But, I hit Holyrood, Kelso, did the Ghost Tour that I already wrote about, and last night was a Pub Crawl with the local University Gaming Group. It was fun, but in a way kinda disturbing: gamers come in archetypes. Which I kinda already knew, but was disturbed to have confirmed.

But oh, I am looking forward to Sunday, which is when I'll see them all again. Yay!

Next week is Cardiff, and I'm trying to imagine a world where I'd be in Edmonton and travelling this much. I somehow don't see that happening.


I missed out on two things that I wanted to do in Paris: The catacombs and the Pirate Boat dancing place. The Catacombs I missed because I cut things way too close, and didn't manage to find the place before it closed. I regret it on some level, but on others... c'est la vie, as they say. It's not like Paris it that far from here. One could do it in a daytrip if one wanted to.

(One would likely be very tired and stressed, though, so this one is not going to do that.)

I did, however, manage to make it out to Montparnasse Cemetery.

I will admit, I'd never heard of it before my guidebook. I've been out to Pere Lachaise, and recall being awed by the various graves. I wasn't into Jim Morrison, but the people I travelled with took at least a roll of film worth of pictures of his grave. I remember watching an episode of Highlander: the Series where the cemetery was featured, and feeling that sudden rush of remembrance.

But, Montparnasse seemed to be less of a tourist attraction, which made it more interesting to visit. There is a map of the graveyard available, and it is a place that a lot of people visit. I spent about an hour out there, just walking through one small section and taking a bunch of photos. The only famous grave I visited was that of Jean-Paul Satre and his lover, Simone. It was, as seems typical of graves of famous and tragic figures, covered in notes, flowers, and (strangely) metro tickets. Lots and lots of metro tickets.

I enjoy cemeteries, and I considered it time well spent, but by the time I was done there, I was exhausted. It had been a busy day of walking and touring and looking at things and falling in love with this city all over again. Instead of going out dancing, I limped my way back up to the area around Notre Dame, found a lovely restaurant to indulge myself in excellent French Food, and headed back to my hotel. (Well, after a bit more browsing through the shops along the way. *grin*)

I fell asleep, and slept like the dead.

September 14, 2005

Note to Self

Dear Self,

Look, I know you're panicking about being unemployed. But try to keep at least a few things in mind:

1) You've been looking since Monday. It's only Wednesday, and you had two people call you up for interviews already. That's not bad, considering that you're no longer applying in your usual market of "Customer Service" and focusing on the chance to work in an office environment.

2) You have enough money put aside that, even though you're taking a trip to Cardiff next week, you could do just fine not working a day between now and December 31st, and that's several months away. And you probably could last longer than that, if you really tightened your belt.

3) There are about a million and a half call centers in this city. If you can't find a job by the end of September, just apply at one of them. You have experience, and were promoted once and got a raise twice in a year. You'll be fine.

Just... stop freaking out, okay? It makes it hard to get anything else done, and you start dithering and then all you want to do is play Civ III instead of looking for work. And that's bad. Stop doing it.


PS: Stop slapping chickens to death in Dungeon Keepers II afer dubbing them "Kenny". Not only is it childish, it's freaking out your family.

Completely Unrelated

And, completely unrelated to anything else:

If you go to Google's new Blog Search Page and type in "overseas", my blog comes up second.

This is somehow very disturbing. But cool. *grin* I really should put in that about page sometime soon....


One of the things I most loved about being in Paris was how every time you looked around, there was some cultural or artistic thing to be fascinated by. As I've mentioned before, History is my Kink, and France is just... full of so much of it.

I wonder how long you have to live in Paris before you become blase.

Anyway. I was walking down the street from the Cluny Museum, determined to get myself to the Catacombs before they closed. I'd cut things very close, and I was walking, so I wasn't sure if I would make it. The fact that I kept being distracted didn't help matters.

Imagine if you will walking along a normal busy city street, and looking up to see something that looks like the Pantheon. It was just up the street from where I was, and it was so tempting to ditch the catacombs and just go there and enjoy the view. But I'd wanted to go to the Catacombs last time I'd been to Paris, but hadn't been able to. So, I forced myself to look away and continue on. (But oh, I remembered seeing the same thing last time I was in Paris, and making the same decision to walk past it. I have no photos, and can't currently recall what it was.)

Paris has this cultural sense of itself that no place else I've been ever has. The McDonald's there are artistic, with white statues everywhere and a sense of... sophistication that's lacking in our MickeyD's back home. It's not that I think the food is so much better, or that the entire chain is better in France than anywhere else. It's still McDonald's, and you don't go there for high class food. But, it's... just different. (I didn't go to a McDonald's on this trip, but I do remember it from last time quite vividly.)

There's such a stereotype about Paris, about snooty French waiters and constantly being looked down on for being "not French". And Don's told me about his brother-in-law, who is French Canadian with an Acadian accent having people in France just refuse to speak French with him. It's not as though I avoided that attitude - some of the cafes that I went in to were insanely rude, at least by my standards. But I think it's in what you choose to do. When I went into smaller places that weren't so busy, they were unfailingly polite and friendly. They seemed eager and welcoming. Those are the places I remember most fondly being in, and would like to take friends back to. (Mmmm... escargot with friends....)

I don't know. The only way I can describe the experience of being in Paris, of having these artistic wonders everywhere I looked, of having rude service in busy cafes and wonderful service in tiny little restaurants... it's just so French.

September 13, 2005


So, who wants to help me write the most kick-ass cover letter evar, so I can get a job working at the National Museums of Scotland?

Because oh my god... it's a temp job that *does something with my degree*.

*dies and is ded*

Suggestion is a Powerful Thing

Ghost Tour Guide
Originally uploaded by Troubled.
So, I can't sleep.

There are two reasons for this. The first, and probably the most influential, is that I worked nights for over a year, and my body is just programmed to be awake right now. I'm only a bit tired, and not enough to actually sleep when I could be doing countless other things.

The second reason is that today I went on one of the Ghost Tours. (Warning: Very Crappy Website. It makes noise. Lots of really really loud and awful noise, for no reason.)

I won't bother discussing if I believe in ghosts or anything of the like, and just put myself firmly on the fence for that debate. But I do love a good ghost tour. They usually work in some interesting history, and there's lots of good stories.

This is the second Ghost tour I've been on. The first one, in Edmonton, was a lot different. That guide could have sold snake oil to snakes and had them count the cost a small one. She took us around to various places in Old Strathcona, telling stories about the history of the area with ghost tales tossed in for each stop. Some of the tales were from other places (like the haunted railway, since ours apparently isn't haunted) and various tales from other places in the city. We made up a Ghost Tour Drinking Game for that one: if you took a shot every time she said "It's is said that" before telling a story, you'd be seeing the ghosts about halfway through the tour.

This one was a bit different. It's split between above ground and below. The above ground stuff that we did and talked about wasn't anything I didn't already know, but it was told in a fun and interesting way, so it didn't matter. We got the old "Gardy Loo!" or "Gardez L'Eau" story, and the details about the Nor'Loch, and stuff about the plauge pits and witch burnings. We heard the tales of how horrible the housing conditions were in Edinburgh up until the last outbreak of the plague. Very standard stuff, but again, with a guide that could have sold snow to eskimos, and then a fridge to keep it in. He was outstanding.

The more interesting stuff was with the South Bridge Vaults. (Well, there was the torture room before the vaults, but I actually covered my ears and said 'la la la' while they were discussing that. So, I can't tell you much about it. I don't like that sort of stuff.) My understanding is that they were walled up after a big fire that destroyed a lot of the Old Town, back about 150 years ago or so, and were forgotten about. When some workmen were doing renovations, they were discovered again.

The vaults are, allegedly, the most haunted place in Scotland. There are two levels of "activity": Low activity, which is cold spots, bright balls of light, and a couple of ghosts that don't really do anything; and High Activity, which is in the room where most of the people who lived in the vaults died. They cooked to death during the fire, hundred of them underground. Allegedly the ghost hates women, and has been known to attack them if they come into "his" side of the room.

Sadly, nothing happened that the power of suggestion didn't create (I will admit to getting chills up my spine, and feeling extremely jumpy through the whole thing), but now that I'm at home, and it's 4 a.m., I'm jumping at every noise and wondering what everything is.

So, I'm awake.

I loved the tour, though. I'd totally do it again in a heartbeat. There's another one I want to go on that does tours of the graveyards at night. I think I'll bring a flashlight to that one, though.

September 12, 2005

Drinking Games #2

So, in an effort to celebrate my unemployment last week, I went out to the local supermarket to buy myself something tasty and yummy to drink. "Oh yes!" I thought. "Yummy and alcholic! I'm in Scotland, that should be easy."

I'm so cute when I'm terribly wrong.

(As an aside: You can buy vodka coolers with Irn Bru here. Which I find both scary and intriguing.)

Honey Ale

First things first: I have a horrible habit of picking out food, drinks, and books based entirely on "Oooh! Purty!" This, of course, is not a good idea.

I was browsing through the alcohol aisle (we don't have those in grocery stores in Canada) and stumbled upon an entire section of ales. "Ah hah!" I thought. "I don't really like beer unless it's a dark beer... and ale is just a fancy word for dark beer, right? And... and I drank that Guiness stuff, and it didn't kill me! I shall get ales!"

So, I grabbed a nice looking bottle of Honey Ale. I think somewhere in my head was the idea that it might taste like the Lindisfarne Honey Mead.

I am so not clever.

I got home, popped off the top, and had a taste.




"It tastes like work socks!"

I tried valiantly to finish the whole bottle, hoping that it would grow on me (sorta like mold), but it didn't. I declared it a total failure for anything other than an amusing blog entry, and left it alone. Too bad in a frenzy of cleaning before I had guests over, I threw out the bottle. So, I can't even tell you any scary warnings on the side or anything like that.

But, all was not lost, for I had bought anothe bottle, of different ale! Maye this would be better.

Fraoch Heather Ale

This, I still have the bottle for.

Fraoch is Scotland's native ale. Fraoch is Gaelic for "Heather". Heather ale has been brewed in Scotland for four thousand years and is the oldest style of ale still madse in the world. The Picts who ruled Scotland until the 9th Century were known to brew the legendary heather ale, these "people of the designs" were the creators of the artistic style of our label. Scotland has ten million acres of wild flower heather, this natural resource being used to produce ales until the 18th Century when British legistlation forced Scottish Brewers to conform to the internatinal use of hops. This ale is produced to a 16th Century Scots-Gaelic repie from malted barley "bree", sweet gale and heather flowers. The hot ale is infused in heather flowers before being fermented in copper tuns. Fraoch has a floral, peaty aroma, full malt body, a spicy herbal flavour and a dry wine like finish. - Slatine.

Yes, I did buy it for the ultra-cool label, which you can see part of here.

I took one taste of it, and pronounced "It tastes like corpses."

After that, I didn't drink any more, and just went to bed.

Related Links:

Fraoch Brewery's Official Website

So, things I learned:

1) I really don't like ale, and I can't pretend I do.
2) Stop buying things based on either their nifty sounding names or their nifty looking bottles.

I predict I will have forgotten both of these points within a few hours.

September 9, 2005

National Medieval Museum (Musee National du Moyen Age)

From what I recall, Cluny was an important Abbey during the Middle Ages. There are still many signs of this: the high walls that still surround the courtyard; the well, complete with gargoyle; and the sun dial that still marks the hours. It's been converted into a museum, hosting many of the displaced art from various churches, abbeys, and cathedrals.

(Dear god, that makes it sound like I'm about to write an essay.)

I went to Cluny the last time I was in Paris, but I had mostly forgetten anything about it. Walking inside, though, I remembered the well. I'm sure I have pictures of it at home. But I still couldn't remember anything else. I couldn't remember having actually seen the famous "La Dame a la Licorne" tapestries at all.

(Famous, she says. Everyone I've talked to about going there doesn't know what I'm talking about. I may need a new class of friends. *grin*)

The museum was... Well, I hate to say this, but I was really disappointed. Again, it seemed that nothing had context, and I find that very frustrating when dealing with historical sites. It's not that I can't appreciate the artwork being shown, but I had no idea what I was looking at more often than not.

There were some real highlights, though. Some of the original stained glass from Sainte Chapelle is kept there, and it's amazing to see them up close. There was also one wall I distinctly remember, showing a collection of various church reliefs depicting the Annunciation which were fascinating. I wish I could have gotten a picture of that, because they were beautiful and although very similiar had unique features to each one. I love that sort of stuff.

The ultimate highlight is, of course, the Tapestries.

They're a series of six, each showing a lady, a unicorn, some animals, and something related to a specific sense. The final tapestry, and the largest, called "To My Only Desire", shows the lady putting away her expensive posessions in a locked box, while the unicorn looks on.

They're... beautiful. And I can't imagine how they were made. There's some theories on why they were made, but although they're likely true, it's hard to know for sure.

The rest of the museum passed by in a blur. I don't think I was the only one overwhelmed and not sure what to make of everything, as although the earlier rooms were packed with people, later rooms were empty, and no one seemed to linger over the exhibits. I decided when I'd glance in a crowded room to just focus on one or two items, enjoy them, and move on. I saw some beautiful bejewled book covers, and several crosses. I wish I'd taken more pictures, but my camera batteries died part way through.

I wish I'd had a bit more time. The gardens are beautiful, or so I've been told, and I would have liked to enjoy a walk through them. But I had several other things I wanted to do that day, and so I hurried away.

September 8, 2005


For the past few days, the early mornings and late nights have seen a fog over Edinburgh. It started the morning after the big fireworks display that indicates the end of Festival season here, and it seems to signal the end of summer. It's a thick fog, and it's usually gone in a few hours.

It's very surreal, being in a place where the indications of a season change are so different from home. In Canada right now, I'd be expecting red and gold leaves on trees. Here, it feels like fall, but it doesn't look like it. Sometimes there's a sharp cool breeze off the ocean, but nothing like what I'm used to.

I had a surreal moment the other day, when the issue of winter came up. Well, of global warming, and how that might make winter go as long as five months here.

For those not from Canada, we have four seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Just After Winter, and Construction. The idea of living some place where "winter" is a balmly -10 Celcius... It's hard to wrap my mind around.

I just walked out of work.

It's amazing how I can feel quite justified at doing something so entirely and completely out of character.

I've been working on a post about work and creating a metaphor with a bad relationship, which I suppose the "last straw that made me leave" still works with, but what's the point in posting.

To my coworkers who read this: ... Strangely, I'm not sorry.

ETA: Also, my cell phone has been stolen. If you're trying to call me from Canada (or, well, anywhere, since it's stolen from the whole world and not just from Canada), email me instead.

September 7, 2005


And so here I am thinking "Gee, I haven't even finished talking about France yet, and I'm leaving for Kelso on Friday. Damn it, I need to write faster."

Kelso, which has a slightly less informative website than Lindisfarne, is a small place along the Scottish Borders that happens to hit three out of my four major historic kinks. It's got ruins, which are religious, and a cemetery. If it has statues of women on walls, I'm all there and aquiver. *grin*

(I said this to the people at work and they're all staring at me like I've grown an extra head. I haven't quite figured out how much of that is because none of them have any desire to go to Kelso, and how much of it is because none of them get as all excited about historic sites as I do. Either way, being the "strange one" at work isn't something new to me And I still don't understand how these people can be living in the UK and not be all excited about the history all over the place. *sigh*)

Anyway, I have about a million more photos from France that I'm slowly putting up, and quite a few more little stories to tell. I'm hoping to catch up with it all by the end of the week.

There was a book I read when I was younger called Only Begotten Daughter. The premise of the book was simple: Another virgin birth (with a twist I won't get into here) produced God's Daughter. Raised by her Jewish father, who was quite familiar with the Biblical accounts of what happened to God's last child, she was warned against using her powers to bring any attention to herself. Her father didn't want to watch her die. She grew up knowing she was the child of God, but not knowing what to do with herself.

In an effort to prove to herself that her inactivity is acceptable, she creates a "Wall of Shame" in her room. She becomes obsessed with recording every awful event that happens in the world. Every newspaper clipping she can get her hands on that shows a natural or manmade disaster, that shows children dying, that shows people suffering, she puts up on her wall. The attitude she displays is "If God won't help these people, why should I?"

I've spent the past several days creating my own "Wall of Shame" as it were. Every waking minute I haven't been at work, I've been staring at my computer as Katrina has unfolded into a disaster of immense proportions. I've been horrified not by the damage that nature has brought, but by the casual disregard that has been shown by many in the government. I won't go into a list of it here, but there has been more than enough on the web to keep me glued to my computer for 8 to 10 to 12 hours a day. Every day when I get up, I tell myself I'm just going to take a quick look here, but every day brings more things to stare at in horror. News reports, videos, opinion pieces. There's more than enough that this is all I do all day. I take occasional breaks to check out my favorite blogs, but nothing distracts me for long.

I didn't have internet access when 9/11 happened, and I didn't have t.v. I've only seen the video of the plane hitting the tower twice. But I'm going to go to my grave remembering the president of Jefferson Parish breaking down and sobbing that "She drowned on Friday. No one's coming to get us!".

If you're feeling as overwhelmed and helpless as I am, I will point you to this link, where it talks about ways of helping with that. A friend of mine also made a post that's very helpful. I've decided that the only way I can deal with this any more is to step away from the computer, and stop bathing myself in the misery every day. It doesn't mean I care any less, but it does mean accepting that in this place, at this time, I can do nothing to help that I haven't already done.

I will leave you with one more thought about Only Begotten Daughter, the scene I took away from the book with the most meaning to me.

In the book, the main character finds Jesus in Hell, and quite surprised that anyone would think he was in Heaven. Because he's with the damned souls, giving them water to ease their suffering.

September 4, 2005


Everything I've wanted to say, she said here.

If you're not reading it already, I recommend you read The Interdictor.

It's like watching the beginning of the end of Rome.

September 3, 2005

Sainte Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle is the most beautiful and meangingless place I've ever been. It was once a house of worship, but certainly isn't one anymore. The place attracts tourists, and it no longer feels like a holy place to me. I don't say that to lessen the impact of the place, but to let people know that it is definately very tourist minded at this point, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The lower floor is really not much to look at. I very distinctly remember being very unimpressed with it the first time I saw it. I think we'd been to a few art galleries that day, and I was tired and bored. I think there's only so much you can drag a bunch of high school students to before everything loses its meaning.

But, the lower floor. It's not plain, by any stretch, but it's not beautiful either. It's dominated by the gift shop now, and it's hard to pay much attention to anything else. It was originally for the servants to worship in, and it reflects that in many ways.

But ah, the upstairs....

The entire upstairs is built with stained glass walls. They start just above my head, and soar up to the roof. I cannot imagine how beautiful it must be with full sunlight streaming in. It becomes an overwhelming display of colour, and it's difficult to see the individual pictures shown in each stained glass bubble. The walls tell the story of the bible, as well as the stories of the relics that were originally housed in the church.

I took a few photos of the inside, although the picture taking was quite difficult. The lighting is very strange inside, and it distorted most of the photos.

Being in there, even full of people (although they were for the most part quite quiet), it felt like walking through light.

About September 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Anna Overseas in September 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2005 is the previous archive.

October 2005 is the next archive.

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