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October 2005 Archives

October 31, 2005


Turnip Lit

Me: I still don't understand why it's a carved turnip.

Him: Why wouldn't it be? I didn't think anyone actually used a pumpkin outside of Charlie Brown.

Me: ....

Him: What?

Happy Halloween!

October 30, 2005

Remember Remember

I hooked up on Friday with a group of people who are doing the NaNoWriMo thing this year in Edinburgh. It was a lot of fun, but my favorite part was having a bunch of native Scottish people in a room together than I could quiz about Bonfire Night.

I know nothing about it, except that it happens on November 5th, and I only know that because my guidebook told me.

So, what did I learn?

Let's see... "Remember, Remember, the fifth of November", when someone (Guy Fawkes) tried to kill the king, and he failed, and there was much angsting and he was killed. So now, every November 5th (and for several days before and afterwards), there are fireworks and stuff to either "Be happy that he failed to kill the King!" or "Celebrate that he was brave enough to make the attempt."

It was strongly suggested I find a good place to stand and watch the chaos, and I'm quite looking forward to it. Expect photos, unless I'm lit on fire, in which case... um.... less photos, I'd think.

October 29, 2005

Llandaff Cathedral

Chosing what to do in Cardiff was always a struggle for me. I was going to be there for such limited time, and I hadn't put as much thought into it as I did for my trip to Paris. I knew that I wanted to go there, and that I wanted to see the castle, and that was about it.

So, I did a bus tour, did the castle, and that afternoon, armed with my guidebook, I went searching for Llandaff Cathedral. It's listed as the oldest see in Wales, and I was excited at the idea of seeing a real cathedral in this country. So far, I haven't really been in one, and I had visions of something matching Notre Dame in scope and beauty.

This is probably because I keep forgetting that the UK is definately more protestant in scope.

It's not that it wasn't interesting -- getting to the site alone is interesting, involving a winding steep road with high stone walls, passing a well and a ruin. The graveyard is older than Canada (I need to find a new way of judging "old"), and the cathedral is beautiful on the outside. Tall walls with heads of the Kings and Queen of England carved as gargoyles on the sides. Inside were tombs and caskets of some of the dead, carved with their likeness on the outside. Very ornate, and being inside once again dwarfed my sense of self.

But, on the other hand, it wasn't like, say, Notre Dame or Chatres. There were no beautiful and awe inspiring stained glass windows, none of the sumptious and beautiful furnishings I had seen before. Which isn't neccesarily a critism of the site, or of the faith that built it. It just... wasn't what I expected.

The church is aware it's a tourist site - there was a small place to buy postcards and the like (sadly, closed), and the pastors that I ran into while there were very polite. I discovered that I'm very tongue-tied around Anglican preists, so didn't ask them the millions of questions I wanted to about the site. But then, the church service was set to begin in about 30 minutes, and I wasn't sure if I should pester them.

I didn't get any pictures inside - as I've said before, I don't like to take pictures in a working church - but I did get some lovely ones of the grounds and the graveyard. The graveyard was... very very old.

(Going through my photos quickly, I realize I never did get any good ones of the heads outside of the church. My apologies ... I'd give some sort of excuse, but it would ring rather false, with all the graveyard pics.)

It was on the rather steep walk back up that I fell in sudden deep love. On the way to the Cathedral I had passed some ruins. I can't recall what they were called now, and I'm so embrassed. I remember something about them being a former medicinal garden. It was very peaceful inside, and you could smell the medicinal plants still. There was the bite in the air, you know? The walls were covered in ivy, and a lot of the towers had fallen in on themselves. It was beautiful, in that haunted way I so like. {photos just of the ruins}

I spent the evening afterwards walking through Cardiff, taking a few random photos and trying to decide how I would spend the next day. There were so many possibilities, like taking a tour of Cardiff Bay, going on one of the day-trips outside of the city, or just heading out for an afternoon at Caerleon, the Roman ruins not so far from Cardiff.

I think that's what I like best about poking through towns in the UK - there's always going to be about 10 things I can want to do, and the biggest hurdle is just settling on one or two.

The View...

I have been reliably informed that Edinburgh weather is miserable, that there are no seasons here, that it is always raining, and that everyone is always unhappy.

I'll let you judge for yourself. I took this Thursday during my lunch hour, after looking up from reading my book.

The View

(click for larger sizes)

October 28, 2005

Speaking of Halloween

This is funny.

I used to read Shauna all the time when I was in China, but lost the link and lost the net and all that jazz, so finding her again and seeing that the man she was just beginning to date when I last read things is now the man she is/has/will marry has been a delight.

Related comment:

Me: I'd love to have you over for halloween night. There will be candy and cookies and lousy movies and general fun and sillines, wanna come?

Him: Sure! I'd love to. When is it?

Me: Halloween.

Him: Great! When's that?

Me: *sigh*

ETA: Are you an ex-pat blogger interested in trying something new with your blog? I have a cunning idea that might be a lot of fun, if you're interested, with a minimum of work. Drop me an email, or comment here, and I'll send you the details. Asking for details does not constitute any commitment from you.

October 27, 2005

Something a little off...

I popped into the grocery store last night (in a search for sour cream, which I finally found! Yay!) and noticed some a bit strange on the section for Halloween.

Now, as I said before, they don't really do Halloween here, so the shelfs are not groaning with tons of bags of candy, there are not tacky halloween costumes everywhere (although there are in a lot of places), and for the most part, the thing I see crowding the shelves is Christmas cards. But, I had this great idea to have a small halloween party involving pumpkins, and thought I'd take a look at what they had.

They do, in fact, have pumpkins to carve, which isn't the weird thing, of course.

It's the jackolantern carved turnips that stuck me as a bit odd.

Have I mentioned today that I love this country?

October 26, 2005


Road Sign Cardiff, as I mentioned many times before, was beautiful.

My first glimpse of Cardiff was the ocean. Stepping off the plane and heading towards the train station, the sight of the ocean, so close I felt I could touch it, caught me by surprise. It's not that there's no ocean in Edinburgh. In fact, it's about a 2 minute walk from here, if I walk very slowly. But I wasn't really expecting it in Cardiff, and it caught me so suddenly that I was gasping for breath. Beautiful, beautiful, and I was content.

I did do one of the bus tours, but I found it very unsatisfying so I won't linger on it except to say I don't find them worth the money. But, it ended right in front of Cardiff Castle, and I was very excited about that.

It's not really a castle, at least not as I think of them, having been spoiled by Edinburgh Castle. It's got the high walls and turrets, but little of that is original. When you get inside, though, you can see the grounds, the remains of the Norman Keep (upon its high mound, complete with moat), and the Manor House. And it's really the Manor House you're paying to see.

The Keep is interesting in and of itself. It's a very very very big round tower with an amazing view of the city stretching out for miles. You can see why the Normans would have built it there, and why the whole area has been the site of military occupations for so long. The Romans had a fort at Cardiff Castle, and the big walls in the 'back' of the grounds are rebuilt from their original foundations.

The grounds are beautiful as well, with peacocks and other exotic birds to see. The whole area was lush and green, and that's the big thing I remember from the trip: Cardiff was so much greener than Edinburgh.

But, as I said, the star of the attraction is the Manor House.

ReflectionsUnfortunately while I was there, a great deal of reconstruction work was going on, and that does affect the quality of the tour (which just means I have to go back). My recollections are that the place was owned by the Big Family That Ran Cardiff (the Butte family, if I recall correctly). There's a lengthy story about it, but basically at some point of the owners decided "Eh, to heck with it", and blew an awful lot of money on the place. Each room is decorated with its own interesting and unique theme, there are stained glass windows with pictures of historic figures that have some relation to the area (including some that I had studied, which made my Historic Fangirl Heart go squee), and there are some rooms that are so detailed and intense that it's hard to even be in them for any length of time. In fact, the wife of the man who decided to blow all that money insisted on keeping some rooms plain, because she couldn't stand every room being so intense.

To put some of the decadence in perspective for you:

The dining room table, which is round, has a perfect hole in the center. The table actually pulls apart at that point, and there is a shelf beneath it. It's a bit odd, especially since it's inside and there's no reason to think it's an umbrella.

It's for the fresh grape vines that the gardener brought in every day at dinner time, so the family could pick their grapes off the vines.

Yeah, that decadent.

There are, sadly, no photos allowed, or I'd show you pictures of the beautiful mantlepieces, the hand carved screen for the musicians in the dining hall, or even the scary face carved above the doorway of the smoking room, to keep the women away.

Guess instead you'll just have to go and see it yourself.


October 25, 2005

October Showers Bring...

I think I may have mentioned this before, but I'm not sure I'll ever get over listening to people eagerly planning their vacations to Calgary. I mean, c'mon, it's Calgary. I keep thinking "Go to Glasgow, add some snow, you're there."

I know, I know, that's not fair. In my defense, Edmonton and Calgary have a very friendly rivalry going. I've never stayed in Calgary longer than a weekend, and I usually go with some purpose, so I can't really picture vacationing there. I'd recommend people go to Banff or Jasper instead.

Speaking of vacations, I have officially started saving pennies up for my trip to Italy next summer. And I do mean saving up pennies. I've started tossing them all into a jar on my desk, and I intend to keep putting things in there until they magically turn into real money instead of little copper coins. It's a big jar, and it's already 1/3 full, so we'll see what happens. If you have any little copper coins from your country that you want to get rid of, I'll happily add them to my growing jar of Italy Money. (Note: I was very sad to find out that the little coins here are, in fact, pennies instead of pences. Although amounts smaller than a pound are called pences. But what really threw me is that there are no tuppence anymore, but two pennies. *sigh* Mary Poppins will never be the same.)

Right now, I'm working at a bank, kinda. That is, I'm working as a personal assistant to one of the big main huge people in the bank, which is slightly less intimidating (to me) than working for the Queen would be. I haven't actually meant the woman I'm assisting, but I am quite used to her voice, with the audio typing stuff. They warned me right off that I might have trouble with her accent, without mentioning why. She's American.

I found that really amusing, because at first, I couldn't place her accent at all, just knew it wasn't an Edinburgh one.

I am quite looking forward to two things that have become a bit of a staple in my November plans, including the bit where I plan for a few months in advance what I'm going to do for them. The first, and most famous, is that NaNoWriMo is up and running again this year. I've been a participant since the second year it was running, and have yet to be a finalist. I kinda suck that way. But this time, I'm all set to go, with much in terms of planning and deep thoughts.

The other (although I exaggerate to say it's been a staple of my Novembers, being that it just started last year, but I'm not exaggerating to say that I've been thinking about it for months) is NoNoNoNo. The idea is that, if a picture is worth a thousand words, and the NaNoWriMo people want to do 50 000 words, then maybe people with artistic talents of some sort could try to do 50 pictures, drawings, photos, or whatnots. Now, since I have trouble with my stick figures (no, really, check it out), I'm going to focus on doing photos. You don't have to do a theme, or so is what I gathered last year, but I thought I'd do two types of photos a day: one of a church (of which there are many), and one of a statue (of which there are many more). Gives me an excuse to have to go further afield every so often to get a new shot of something I haven't already photographed. I'm very excited. I'll be posting everything up on my flickr site, of course, because that's what I do, and it makes me happy.

Also, it's been raining, which I mention because a) my umbrella has apparently been eaten by a grue, and b) everyone at work is complaining about it, which always makes me respond with "But, it's Scotland, that's what it does!"

ETA: I challenged the people in Flickr to join NoNoNoNo.

October 23, 2005


I've been very conflicted the past few months.

Every year, Raven holds an Old Year's Wake. Basically, on January 1st, a large group of people get together, play many many games, eat lots of pizza, and at one point all sit together and discuss what the Year That Was meant to them and give it a good send off. Some say something cryptic, others say something signifigant, but everyone says something. But the point (for me at least) is the companionship, the laughter, the having a good time with people who I rarely (if ever!) get to see outside of that context.

I really really want to go again this year.

I had it all planned out for a while, too. I'd do New Years Eve here in Edinburgh, with plans on climbing to the top of Arthur's Seat to watch the fireworks and drink whisky and toast to a year spent closing some doors and opening others. Then, in the wee hours of the morning, I'd run off to the nearest airport, and get the fastest flight to Edmonton. With the time difference on my side, I might even be able to make it to Edmonton on time for a spirited game of Twister.

Alas, I think this is not to be.

It's not that I don't want to go to the Wake, because I do. But I don't think I can pull off both and continue to be employed. And if I have to chose between what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend New Years Eve in Edinburgh, or the chance to go to a Wake... well...

Edinburgh, I guess, has to win.

I'll be there in spirit. Or, you know, I'll be so hung over from the night before that I'll be there in spirits instead, and my was that an awful pun, I'm going to bed.

October 22, 2005

Kelso: Scottish Border Town

As I said before, I loved Kelso. It's a quaint little town, and it has more than one bookstore around the town square (it's a real town square, too). I wasn't quite sure all why I was there. It's not very well done in my guide book, and the World 66 Entry was less-than-helpful.

Graves at the Abbey
One of the things I found very interesting was the graveyard that's next to the abbey. As I said before, there are many graves placed within the ruins themselves (photos), but this other, larger graveyard has an interesting purpose to it.

Rather than have a large space in the center of town they can't use, and rather than dig up the graveyard, Kelso has turned it into a park. There are lovely old trees towering above your head, and curving paths of stone to walk along. The graves are as preserved as they can be, some repaired and others allowed to fall on their own. It's a very peaceful place, and I loved walking along the shady paths after the abbey. (photos)

But the tourist information board suggested that I check out Floors Castle. It's apparently the largest currently-loved in Estate in the UK, owned by the Duke of Roxburghe. I had never heard of him, but I figured "Hey, castle!" You can never go wrong with a castle, at least not in my mind.

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

"It's about a mile and a half away!" said the chirpy tourist information person. I figured I could walk that easily, and in fact I did walk that easily. And technically, it is a mile and a half.

To the gate.

I have no idea how long the actual trip to the castle from the gate was. It was very long, and by the end I just wanted to sit and stare at the thing rather than walk around it. It's not really a castle, per se. It's a large house with turrets and the like. Very purty, but not quite what I thought when I first heard of it.

It was amazingly well done, though. Much better and more friendly than Holyrood was. There were many lovely old ladies that were more than happy to answer any questions and make lots of comments about the Duke and his family. There was a lovely view of the 'back yard', complete with sheep, and several amazingly beautiful paintings. One of these paintings was of another ruined Scottish Border Abbey that I intend to see as soon as possible.

It was really quite lovely. I wish I'd had more time to be there, as the grounds looked outstanding, but there was a bus back to Berwick to catch (and grumble about: I didn't realize until I got back to Kelso that I could have taken a bus directly from Edinburgh, rather than taking a train to Berwick and then a bus), and I was in need of not-overpriced food, so I left for the lengthy walk back soon after finishing the tour of the house itself. (photos)

I might recommend Floors if you're interested in that sort of thing, but I really think you can enjoy Kelso just checking out the town and the abbey. But that's my take on things, as I suspect seeing how the other half lives can be quite entertaining.

As for me, this photo was the best part. It instantly made me think of Raven and James.

Beware Children!

October 21, 2005

Cooking for the British

I had an ICQ conversation with a friend a few days ago where she brought up that she'd made Rhubarb Pie. I love a good Rhubarb Pie, and started craving it like crazy (thanks Kristi), and so when I found one in the store the next day, I knew I had to have it.

I believed, deep in my soul, that it would be a yummy Rhubarb Pie, full of yummy goodness, just like the ones I made a few summers ago. I felt this would be true.

I'm so cute when I'm wrong.

British Cooking is... difficult to explain. The Pie, for example, had a thick crust, like a meat pie might. Most of the pie was crust, with very little filling. This just isn't appealing to me, being used to flaky light crusts, some of which you can see through.

Then there's the whole deep fat fried thing. You can get anything deep fat fried here, although it's harder to find things made out of chocolate. I'm determined to make sure all of my visitors over the next few months come out with me for a Deep Fat Fried Mars Bar. I think it's a unique experience, but not neccesarily one that people would want to repeat.

Another day, I complained to the girls at the grocery store that I couldn't find big bags of flour. I like the bake, and going through a 2 kg bag every week is getting frustrating. The girl behind the customer service desk turned out to be from St Albert (heh - it's just outside Edmonton), and she and I bonded over a lack of good baking supplies in the country. "They just don't bake things from scratch here," she explained. "They buy mixes instead." So, I guess I keep hauling fresh bags of flour every week.

I also have a hard time finding things that I would think easy to find back home. Can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but for those who are curious, "Corn Starch" is "Corn Flour" here. And they keep things in the ethnic food section that I wouldn't expect to find there, like spagetti sauce.

Ah well. At least supper tonight was tasty, even if "frozen pie crust" doesn't exist here.

This is Halloween

In an effort to enjoy the season as much as I can, I went off to the Edinburgh Dungeon the other day. It was full of campy fun, although the lineups are horrible and it's rather hard to take a 'haunted house' seriously when 10 year olds are in the room with you.

The best part was the Mirror Maze. I love Mirror Mazes, but they're rarely done very well. This was oustanding. The way the mirrors were positions, you'd see people in other corridors reflected in the mirror, and think you could go through it. You'd never see yourself until you were right on top of yourself. Even people directly behind me couldn't see me or themselves in the mirror, and wouldn't know what had started me until they saw it, too. More than once, I had to reach out and touch the mirror, and at one point I saw two girls who looked very similiar reaching out to touch each other to make sure they weren't reflections. Outstanding! I would totally go again.

I'm a little anxious about Halloween. It's my favorite holiday - I get to be all crazy and wear costumes and generally be silly and have fun. My understanding, though, is that they don't really celebrate it here. I could be wrong, of course, but that's the impression I've gotten. There's Bonfire Night coming up soon after that, but I only have some random ideas on what that involves. I really should ask someone.

I've also found out that they don't really do the Rocky Horror Picture Show here, which surprised me. It's such a big thing in Edmonton, happening several times during the year. It never occured to me that other big cities wouldn't do it. But, alas, no Rocky Horror here. And although I've considered hosting a Rocky Horror night, it strikes me as a bad idea - I can never remember all the words and silliness, and I'd hate to have to clean up all that rice.

Ah well. Over all, it's been an interesting week. Because of yesterday's job interview, I haven't been able to go out on any temp jobs. (They're only offering me things now that are at least a week long - I'm apparently good. Yay?) It's been a quiet week, and I wish I could say "Oh, and I did lots of exploring around Edinburgh and exciting things and stuff!", but I didn't. I read lots of books, and considered how I want to decorate my apartment, and felt guilty for not doing anything interesting. Cuz I'm weird that way.

As for the job interview (thanks for everyone who asked!), it went... eh. It went okay. I was interviewed by a professional interviewer, which means I have no idea how to read her at all. People who don't make a career out of recruiting are so much easier to figure out. So, I think I gave all the right answers, but I won't know for another two weeks. If it works out, I'll get called in for a third (or is it fourth?) interview, where I'll do a day in the bank, working next to someone and figuring out if I'm good for the job. If that goes well, I'll start in six or seven weeks after that.

Thank goodness for me, the temp jobs are coming in fairly strongly. Just got another call five minutes ago for a job. It's kinda surreal.

October 20, 2005

You know it's gonna be a bad day when...

I'm getting dressed, and noticing "hmmm... my pants are doing up strangely. Must be that other pair I bought at Rikki's, not the stuff I got with my mom in Vancouver."


"Wait, the zipper..."

Yeah, I put my pants on inside out.

This is going to be a long day. Wish me luck on the interview.

October 19, 2005

Kelso Abbey

The Big Picture

I went to Kelso on the strength of a photo I saw on the Historic Britain group on Flickr. It was a quick glimpse of the fallen abbey through the trees. I wasn't sure what to expect, given the photo.

Kelso is one of the many interesting border towns of Scotland, and I intend to see all of them. The other ones I've been to are Berwick upon Tweed (which I never stay in, but keep meaning to) and Lindisfarne. They all have fascinating histories, being torn between England and Scotland the way they have been, and there are so many ruins and places to dart into because of that.

Kelso Abbey was one of the many religious houses that Henry VIII, in his mad stupidity and lust, had destroyed during his stupid stupid reign. (Oh, wait, I should interject here and say I'm currently reading through many books of history on Henry VIII right now, and I'd probably be less foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Harry if I wasn't.) What's left now is a pale imitation of what must have been a beautiful site at one point. It's free to enter since so little of it survives, and the town of Kelso seems to be a place to hold it, and little more. (Which isn't fair, considering that it also has Floors Castle, but we're talking about the Abbey here. I'll talk about Floors Castle another day.)

What used to be the main part of the abbey has been used as a graveyard for some time, and you can catch glimpses of that in some of the pictures that I took. It gives the whole thing an eerie feeling... this sense that the dead are watching. It's hard to explain. It doesn't have the sense of desolation that I got from Lindisfarne, with its howling winds, but a sense of bleakness, I guess.

The place tries to give you a sense of the history. There is the obligatory writeup at the entrance, going on about the dissolution of the religious houses, but what really intrigued me were the little plaques scattered around the grass, telling what would have been in that area originally.

I spent over an hour just walking through what remains of this place, which is more impressive if you realise how small it is. There really isn't that much to it. Just what's left of the walls, all of which you can see in the above photo.

Of course, I fell in love with the place.

Photos, as always, are here.

The rest of this post has nothing to do with Kelso.

I went to Ikea for the first time yesterday, with the stated goal of finding picture frames. I had heard people raving about how great it was.

I will admit to being terribly disappointed. I didn't want to walk a curving line through a big box behind a bunch of slow moving people. It was tedious, and not the fun poking around for funky frames that I wanted. I made up for it by buying very purple covers for my pillows and popping in and out of antique shops along the High Mile. Please don't ask how I got talked into buying a sword, because I'm certain I will regret the purchase at some distant point in the future, but for now, I just keep giggling when I see it and saying "ooh, pointy!"

As for random things that may be of interest, Mark sadly did not get in on the wildcard entry to the Sonic newscaster. Thanks to the people who voted from my blog - I appreciate it, and I know that Mark does to.

Don may or may not have updated his Ponderings blog. I usually go with "not", but he suprised me.

And much to my disappointment, "Wife Wanted" is now the lowest hitting search term for my blog. Damn it, I need a wife to come over here and darn socks or make phone calls or cook supper once in a while or something! Gah! Cornacopia has been knocked down to the number two spot, and the new number one search term for my blog is "Anna Overseas". I will admit to being surprised.

Also, I have an interview with the bank tomorrow morning. This could be a sweet gig, folks, so wish me luck!

October 18, 2005

Huh. Who'd athunk?

This may come off as a bit obnoxious, for which I apologize.

I was sitting drinking chai last night at the Indian restaurant I finally found. It's a nice place - the food, I will admit, is not as good as the place closer to my flat, but the atmosphere is amazing, and it's so much quieter. You can actually eat good food and not have a pounding headache afterwards. Plus, there's a really big camel in the middle which I must get a picture of.

But, yes, digressing. I was sitting there, drinking chai and thinking about my plans for the rest of the month, and it suddenly hit me: I'm actually living the life I hoped I would when I got to Scotland.

I know, I know, it's obnoxious. I'm like a teenager with her first crush, I'm so freaking happy and I want everyone, everywhere to know about it.

But it's weird - I had big thoughts and fantasies about what it would be like to live in China, most of which didn't pan out. And I'm not complaining about the China experience, it just wasn't what I'd hoped for. (It was different and good and great and I'm planning my next stay there, which was part of my thoughts last night.)

When I thought about Scotland, though, I thought about touring castles and seeing amazing Lochs and glens, and meeting all sorts of neat people, and having a job I didn't loathe, and not being terminally bored, and generally just having a care free life, for the most part. And here I am. If I were to complain about anything, it would be that choosing to manage my money so I can travel as often as I do means I don't have as much disposable income as I could want. I can't go out right now and spend a bunch of money on books if I want to go to Inverness this month, or Glastonbury next month, and sometimes that delayed gratification really bothers me. But for the most part (and that's 95% of the part), I'm happy. I'm doing the things I want to do, and I'm doing them when I'm young and free enough to really enjoy them.

*contented sigh* Life is good.

October 17, 2005

The Past

You wanna know what I love most about Scotland this week? (This week, because I'm fickle that way... what I love most about Scotland might be different tomorrow.)

Free frickin' museums.

The theory, as I understand it, is that the museums belong to the Scottish people. A lot of the exhibits have been given as gifts to Scotland, and thus, people can see them for free.

Damn I wish Canada would adopt this policy.

Special exhibits do cost money, though, and this weekend I shelled out a mere five pounds to see the amazing Nicholas and Alexandria: the last Czar of Russian exhibit. I've been meaning to go since the first time I saw the advertising several months ago (as Russian history is a pet obsession of mine), and I finally got the chance to do it.

Museums in Scotland seem to have a much better idea on how to set up an exhibit compared to Edmonton. (I say Edmonton, becaused I've been to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and they know what they're doing, so crappy museums might just be an Edmonton thing.) It was beautifully laid out, it had interesting and informative text, it didn't overwhelm you with information or pretty baubles. It explained everything so someone who didn't know what was going on would be able to follow through, with added stuff so that those who know a lot about it can be pleasantly surprised.

I will admit to flaws: bottleknecking because of the way the space was laid out and the popularity of the exhibit on a Saturday, and a tendancy to use video a bit more than I would like. But overall, I loved the exhibit, and I highly recommend it. It gives me much bliss because I can pop over to the museum at any time and see the rest of the place, and it strikes me as a great way to spend an afternoon next time I'm bored.

(Which, of course, I tried to do today between when I started this entry and now. I didn't make it that far - got distracted by wonderful shops - which means that this is when I finally got a callback about a job I wanted. *sigh*)

October 16, 2005

The Morning After the Night Before

This entry is about the amazingly good time I had last night. If you're here to read about the ex-pat stuff, this isn't really relevant. But damn, it was fun.

(Also good for blackmail material later on in life, and probably my role playing friends will get a good kick outta it.)

Continue reading "The Morning After the Night Before" »

October 15, 2005

Lost but not Stranded...

Every time I live in a city with a bus system, I have this great plan. I think that I'll just get on a bus one day, and ride it until the end of the route. Then, I'll get off that bus, get on whatever bus is available, and ride that one to the end of its route. And so on, until I get back home, or get bored, or something. I keep thinking this will be a great way of seeing the city.

I haven't done it, though, so it's all just conjecture.

Today I did something at least in the same idea as that. Instead of taking my usual and very direct bus route home from work, I hopped on a different bus that eventually ends up a few blocks away from here. I figured, what's the worst that could happen? At least it'll be something new on the bus, and it's not like I had hot Friday night plans. (Those are tomorrow. Happy Birthday, Black Lion!)

The bus ended up weaving its way through sections of Edinburgh I've never seen. The area that I live in has recently been redeveloped, and everything in it is either very very new, or very much in need of repair. This area that I took the bus through had that sense of being very old, and very settled. The houses looked different, and the streets had a different look and feel to them. The bus went by many (many many many) churches that had that sense of history to them that I love in old buildings.

The trees... It's like parts of Edinburgh are in a time zone, really. Some of the trees are slowly shedding their red and yellow leaves, while others are still in bright green like the height of summer. Sometimes, the two types are right next to each other.

I sometimes think of Edinburgh as a very small city - it has only half the people that Edmonton does. But sometimes the size of this city creeps up on me. It's got this big hill in the middle, you see, and everything spreads out from there in strange waves and patterns that must be fascinating from the air.

It took me about three times as long to get home as it usually does, but I came home content. This city has so much to offer visually and culturally. I know I'd never do anything like this, or appreciate it if I did, back in Edmonton. One lives in a country, and doesn't see it anymore. I appreciate and love Scotland as much as I do because I'm not from here, and everything I see is with new eyes.

October 14, 2005

More about Mark

Got this in the email from Mark today.

Just when you thought I'd finally quited myself about this whole Sonic newscaster thing....

THE POLLS ARE NOW OPEN!! Right now, you can go vote for me in their wildcard spot so maybe, just maybe, I'll still be in the running.

To vote, all you have to do is go to this page and click on CLICK HERE TO VOTE!!

Polls are open until 6PM on Sunday night (in Edmonton). So please, get out there and vote!

Remember everyone: Mark Cappis is the winner of the Primitive Radio God Award handed out at Augustaana. And, he's my friend, and he's good at this and it makes him happy. That's a lot of things to remember, so instead, I'll just say: Vote for Mark!

I want my mommy!

I will never ever forget what it was like the first time I was really sick in China.

There I am, stranger in a strange land. It's the first week I've gotten there, I'm still not even sure of the name of the school I'm at, and I have very limited contact with the outside world. And what happens? I get sick. I get deathly sick, with the worst cold ever in the history of ever.

I'm an adult, and have been living out of the house since I graduated from high school about a million years ago. I hate getting sick (because so many people like it), but for the most part I can cope.

I did not cope with being sick that first time in China. I wanted my mother so damned bad that I called my parents up (collect, internationally, because my parents love me and just take that sorta thing) and my mother thought I was my brother when I called. I was that sick.

So, here I am in Scotland, and for the first time since getting here, I'm sick. It's a cold, again, because it's always a cold. And I want my mother to make it all better. (This time, not so much with the long distance calling, because it is rather pointless. She's not going to make me chicken soup in Canada.)

I actually wrote a big thing about dealing with culture shock when you first get to China (it's at China Teachers, if you want to read it), and the big thing I discuss is letting yourself and your body adjust slowly. And that means letting yourself be sick, taking the time to get over it, and let yourself feel sorry for yourself that your mom (or dad, or signifigant person) isn't there to make it all better.

I think I'll take my advice.

Good night!

October 13, 2005


Holyrood Palace sits at the bottom of the Royal Mile, a walk entirely downhill from Edinburgh Castle. It's an actual working Royal residence - you can't go there during parts of the summer because the Queen is holding garden parties and the like. I tried at one point, but the police were out in full force because it was during the protests.

I sort of divide it up into two things in my head: the parts I really thought were boring, and the parts I really loved. The parts I really loved were amazing, but the admission price is very high. It does include an audio tour, but I really don't like them unless they're incredibly well done, and this one wasn't.

But, Holyrood. The parts I didn't like were really the parts you pay for - the chance to walk through an actual Royal Residence. I spent my time there wanting to ask questions of non-friendly looking staff, because the tour was very sparse on actual information. The bit where they tell you that a piper walks around the grand table three times when Elizabeth eats there is all well and good, but who were the people in the paintings? I ended up getting very bored of those types of rooms, whereas I was quite fascinated by the bedrooms of famous kings and queens of history.

I didn't get really interested, though, until I got upstairs, into Mary Queen of Scots' bedchamber. It's very claustrophobic, to me at least, and they very dramatically tell the tale of Queen Mary, pregnant with her only child, watching in horror as her trusted secretary is pulled out of the room and stabbed to death. They say that the bloodstain in the corner is left over from that murder. (Of course, one guide book says it's a hoax, the other says it's true. I don't care, it's interesting.)

Also in Holyrood are some of the famous paintings that you can see if you study a lot of British History. If I recall correctly (it was some time ago that I went... lord, it takes me forever to tell stories), there were paintings of Anne Boylene and Catherine of Aragon. I do remember going into spasms of historical ecstasy over them.

But, really, for me the whole point was the abbey outside. Walking out of the palace and into the abbey is like walking out of a stuffy version of dull history (not including the blood stain *grin*), and into the stuff that really interests people. There is no ceiling on the abbey, since it's entirely fallen, and the whole thing is in ruins. You can walk around it and see various stones left for people over time, in memory of past deads. But the whole place is like a haunted faith, fallen in on itself.

Pictures, as always, are here.

October 10, 2005


One of the problems with living the way I do is that sometimes, it's just not worth the effort to cook something. This is especially true (for me at least) when it comes to meat. I crave meat. It's my favorite part of being human. I love all kinds of meat, and I'll try it all. Even chicken feet and pigs ears.

But, as I said, it's a lot of effort to cook that sort of stuff for one person, whereas your usual pasta dish or quick cheese sandwich will satisfy the need for food much easier and quicker. I'll go weeks without having any meat, which usually leads to some sort of problem.

In China, about once a month I'd go crazy with cravings for beef. I'd make trips into Nanjing or Shanghai just to get something with cow. It became a ritual of my visits to Shanghai. The bus dropped off three blocks from a McDonald's, and I'd make a beeline for it. I'd order whatever burger appealed that day (usually adding cheese, since I never did find any in Jiangyan), linger over it for as long as I could, then go find whatever hostel or hotel I'd decided to stay in that night. I usually would be fine without that sort of food for the rest of my stay, until the following month where I'd repeat some form of the ritual again.

Today being the last part of the Thanksgiving weekend back home, I've been reading various blog posts from friends about eating turkey dinners and having too much gravy and potatoes and the like, and the old cravings came back on me. But, since I didn't want to cook myself a whole turkey, I decided to make due with a quick run to the local KFC.

Quick random Anna Fact: I have worked for KFC. It is very very very rare that I get a craving for the actual chicken because of that. Now the gravy... mmm.... And yeah, I know how bad it is for you. I shall not go into the KFC Gravy Milkshake Story today.

So, today I went to the KFC and ordered a two piece meal, just enough to deal with the craving, not too much so as to make me ill.

You see, McDonald's is where the meals are almost entirely the same no matter where you are (although with local touches on the menu, like the Teriyaki Burger that Mark fell in love with in Japan). I've had McDonald's in Canada, the US, China, France and Scotland. It all tastes the same. KFC, however, doesn't do this. KFCs seem to be much more localized.

And thus, in Canada, KFC has gone away from the greasiness, as much as deep fat fried chicken can. But I'm in Scotland. Land of the Deep Fat Fried Mars Bar. Where a Scottish Breakfast isn't considered complete if it isn't dripping in fat. And KFC hasn't walked away from that into something one can pretend is healthy.

The chicken was so greasy it sparkled in the light. The gravy was so thick it could have pretended to be a gravy milkshake without any extra help. It was so unhealthy I could feel my arteries hardening just by looking at it.

Damn was it good.

I'm feeling a bit ill now, but I'm also feeling a lot better. Craving for meat satisfied for another month.

But I think next time, I'll just order a chicken sandwich from Tescos.

October 8, 2005


I will say that Linlithgow was marvelous, and I had an amazing time. I will also say that, in some twisted way, I'd like to go someplace and not be awed and excited and overwhelmed about what I saw, just because the change would be nice. I do love this country, and it never fails to impress me in some way.

I will also say that it's nice to work with people who, upon hearing I'm going to a castle, think that it's great and hope I have a marvelous time.

October 7, 2005

More About Mark

So, as I said before, my friend Scarecrow is up for a job at Sonic. Now he's got a chance at the Wildcard Slot, but only if he has votes for it. Voting doesn't actually take place until October 14.

So, check out Mark's Vote For Mark website.

Here's something else you can do if you're in Edmonton (from Mark):
Right now, I'm also seriously considering having a "Vote for Mark" rally in the Sonic parking lot, on Saturday the 15th, right in the middle of voting. Of course, I won't do that unless I can get about 20 people out to it...you know, make a good showing for the TV cameras. So, if you think you can grab a couple of friends and meet me in the Sonic parking lot next Saturday...that'll be a go.

If you're interested, please let him know, through his blog or emailing him at mark@chaosinabox.com.

Vote Mark! Yay Mark!

It's All About the Money

If I were forced at gunpoint to explain the difference between people in the UK and people in Canada, I would say it was all about public versus private.

In Edmonton, there has been outcry against security cameras on Whyte Ave. For those of you not familiar with Whyte Ave, it is "the" bar strip in Edmonton. During the day, it's packed with buskers and people shopping in lovely little stores and drinking lots of designer coffees. At night, there's still buskers, but the number of young women wearing very little and young men proving something with their manly cars goes up. It's that sort of area, and there are more police officers on Whyte Ave on the weekend than anywhere else in the city. After the riots there one Canada Day, the Old Strathcona Businesses wanted the cameras there to help cut down crime. I remember getting back from China and feeling very uncomfortable with the idea, and hearing quite a bit about it from friends who thought it a very bad thing and a violation of privacy.

Here? Closed Circut T.V. is everywhere. You can't walk down any street in this city, can't walk into any store in this city, without being on at least one camera, if not two or three. They're on the buses, they're on the trains, they're in the parks. You are constantly on camera here. And no one seems to mind.

Entirely different issues about public versus private is about privatization. Back in Canada, each city runs its own buses. It's the City of Edmonton that runs the Edmonton Transit Service and makes decisions about where the buses go, how late they run, and how often. The Council recently voted to keep in service a bunch of very old trolley-type buses despite ETS people saying what a bad idea this was.

Compare that to here. There's a cornacopia of bus choices here. Off the top of my head, I can think of three private transit buses running in the city. I happen to take Lothian Buses, which are run by the Council, but there are several other options. You can get anywhere here by bus, and the buses do run 24 hours. There seems to be some agreements about where buses run and most bus stops are shared between companies, but the whole thing gives you a lot of choices. It's the same in other major cities here as well, from what I can tell.

But the strangest difference is the money.

Every bank here prints its own money. (Now that I've made an absolute statement, someone will correct me. Please do!) I've seen the bank notes from the Clydesdale and the Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as English and Irish pound notes. Scottish notes are different than both of those. (Irish notes are greener, Scottish notes tend to be browner.) When traveling outside of the UK, it's recommended that you change over all of your Scottish notes to English ones, because Scottish notes are difficult if not impossible to get taken as currency outside of the UK.

Can you imagine if Alberta printed its own money? And having people in Ontario look at it strangely and check to see if it's real?

When I was in Wales, all of my Scottish notes were checked to see if they were forgeries. Passing Scottish notes with a Canadian accent did get me a few odd looks in pubs.

I don't know how they manage things so the currency isn't devalued, but they obviously do. It's weird, though, having all the different colours and pictures and stuff mixed up. I'm always having to check notes at least twice before I'm certain of what they are.

The only thing that seems consistent is the coins. Which is funny because in Canada, with all the commemorative and province specific coins, they all look different to me.

October 6, 2005

We'll Always have Paris

I guess this is my last post about Paris, which means I get to start talking about a few of the day trips I've taken since, and Cardiff (of course).

I'm fairly certain the fact that I had a marvelous time has completely come through in these posts. I really did enjoy it, and I'd love to go back for longer. All joking aside, I'm toying with the idea of spending at least six months there at some point in the future. I have the ability to get my very own European Union passport, if I'm willing to. It's just a question of how much of my Canadian citizenship I'm willing to give up. I dream about taking some courses at the Sorbonne, finally actually becoming useful in French. I have an idea for a book that I think would do moderately well (the "cunning plan" that I'm not going into, simply because I think it sounds a bit insane -- yes, more insane than being an International Pastry Fugitive). I also want to see more, do more... spend more time in this country that, in my mind at least, is synonymous with culture. I have a running list in my head of things I missed out on, and the more I spend pondering it, the longer that list gets. I want to go back.

But, that aside, there were some silly things that happened that didn't make it into the big narrative. Like walking up to Chartres to see a group of men all dressed like knights preparing a mighty battle against a foe made of balloons. I sadly missed most of the actual battle, since it took place while I was staring in awe at the Cathedral, but I got two shots of the group of them. The orange weaponry just makes it for me.

I put up the last of the photos that I think are either good or interesting up on my flickr site. The last few by themselves here here (as the tag says, they are silly), and if you want to see the whole thing, check out my France set. I took a lot more than are on the site - over 300 photos, almost 100 of which were of the oustide of Chartres. If you feel a need to see them, do let me know, I'll be happy to email you a few. You can also read the whole thing in reverse order, since I nicely labeled them all as France.

The plane ride back to Glasgow was short - I think it takes less time to fly to Paris than it does to fly from Edmonton to Vancouver. I think next time I go, I might take the train, or the ferry, because flying makes everything seem a bit less anti-climatic.

As I said, it was a short flight. Of course, it was raining when I got back.

I love Scotland, because at least the weather can be fairly predictable.

October 5, 2005

Random Places on the Map

This weekend I'm heading out for a daytip to Linlithgow. I'd love to say I picked it because I remembered it was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots (I didn't). I'd love to say I picked it because I read about the castle and the history of the area and fell in love with it (I didn't). I'd love to say I picked it because I saw a photo of the place and just had to see it (I didn't).

I picked it because I like saying Linlithgow. Linlithgow, Linlithgow, Linlithgow.

When people ask me why I came to Edinburgh, I like to say I just threw a dart at the map and went to the closest city it landed on. That's not what happened - it was a close race between Edinburgh and Cardiff, and Edinburgh won because the cost of living is lower here. (Although gah, with the Council Tax bill this month, I'm not sure I agree with that assessment.) But, when I decide to go someplace, either for a weekend or a daytrip, it's usually a process very similar.

Paris was a birthday trip I'd promised myself that was put off because of money concerns, but the other places all fall into this category.

Lindisfarne: I asked a friend where I should go, and he said "Well, Lindisfarne was interesting when I was fourteen", so off I went.

Kelso: Saw a picture of it in someone's blog, liked the look of it, found the next train out there.

Cardiff: Ooh, I have to go someplace in Wales... Look, there's an airport in Cardiff!

And now, Linlithgow, which came about because I was poking around in my guidebook about daytrips from Edinburgh, and it was fun to say. Linlithgow!

I'm almost certain that I would plan an entire trip around going to random places that people suggested in comments. (This may or may not be a suggestion.)

I like travelling, I liked it a lot. And I like trying new things, seeing places and doing stuff I might not have done if I'd been given more of a choice. I like asking waiters what's good on the menu, and just ordering whatever they recommend. Why bother agonizing over a decision? Other days, like in Cardiff, I just order whatever sounds strangest on the menu. I may know what bangers and mash is, but it sounds really weird, so I ordered that one afternoon when I first got here. And in Cardiff I ordered "brain beer sausage". Doesn't that sound like something horrible and obscene? (It becomes less so when you realize that Brain Beer is a brand name in Southern Wales. Which I didn't know. I was kinda disappointed.)

Life is a feast, as the saying goes, and so many poor folks are starving. It's supposed to be an adventure. And if that means going to some random place on the map because you like to say the name, so be it. If it means trying something on the menu that you can't pronounce (which happens to me all the time), go for it. Heck, if living life to its fullest involves just going out tonight and meeting new people, more power to you.

But then, you're talking to someone who once convinced a young man to drive for three hours one way to get a milkshake. The milkshake wasn't that good, but the rock and the story that went with it was fantastic.

October 4, 2005

Cunning Plan

I had a cunning plan while I was in Paris.

I actually had two cunning plans, but one of them is so amazingly cunning and will actually make me money and stuff, and thus, I don't want to put it up on the internet incase it is stolen by some other, even more cunning person. Because me? All about the cunning plans.

Anyway, here is the cunning plan I can write about:

See, while I was in Paris, I fell madly in love with these crepes you can get everywhere. They're filled with a lot of different things: brown sugar, nutella, peanut butter, bananas, whatever. I loved the nutella-banana ones. (See picture in blog post below this one.) They're great, they're wonderful, and they would make so much money on the streets of Edmonton.

So, here's the cunning plan:

I rush off to France again, and get a job working at one of these crepe places. (How much French would I have to learn, anyway? Crepe, Banane, nutella. There we go!) And I learn the secret techniques for making perfect yummy crepes filled with nutella. Then, in the middle of the night, I steal the recipe, rush off to the airport, and wing my way back to Canada, on the run from the French police for stealing crepe recipes. (Can you see that being a serious offense in France?) Then, on the run from the police as an International Pastry Fugitive, I'll go to Klondike Days (It's a fair held every year in Edmonton) and sell my yummy French Crepes (with nutella!) for lots of money! Which I will need to quickly flee Edmonton when the French Police catch up with me.

See, cunning plan!

In something that may be related news, I think I've come down with something. I have a fever.

Yummy Nutella

Yummy Nutella
Originally uploaded by Troubled.
The Cunning Plan Photo

October 1, 2005

Shopping is for the Weak

I think one of the hardest things to get used to in a new country is the way grocery shopping changes.

In China, the grocery stores are completely different than in Canada. The main store I shopped in was a department store upstairs and a grocery store downstairs. For some reason I never did quite figure out, you had to go up the escalator then down the escalator to get into the grocery area, even though you walked in through doors on the same floor.

Anyway, produce is bagged and weighed in the produce section, and the bags are sealed off and tagged with the price in that area, which is the big thing that threw me (and strangely took a long time to get used to not doing at home). I remember that there were lots of other differences, but at the moment can't remember what they were.

Shopping here is equally... strange. It's not the same thing - I mean, I can read the cans and know what things are and what they're supposed to taste like. But, it's the huge liquor section in every grocery store, which you'd never see in Canada. It's... the way the dairy section is in aisles, with open coolers instead of just in one back area. It's the way the cheese is strange and unusual colours, and doesn't quite taste right. It's that free-range eggs seem to be the only type the stores here sell, which I don't have an issue with, but kinda took me aback. It's goat's milk being next to the regular milk.

It's interesting that having... what's a way of putting this... alternative eating habits seems easier over here than back home. A lot more restaurants are vegetarian and vegan friendly than in Alberta, land of oil and cows. A lot more prepackaged foods note if they're gluton free. Goat's milk and soy milk and whatever else kind of milk that isn't cow milk isn't that hard to find. I'm not into alternative eating habits (it is entirely possible I'd go out and eat raw rabbits should I go too long without meat, and goats milk strikes me as odd), but quite a few of my friends are, and that's when I started noticing how hard it is in Canada to do that, especially compared to here.

On the other hand, the produce section struck me as very empty in comparison to what I'm used to. And horribly disorganized. I should not have to look in three different places before I find peppers that aren't prepackaged. Barry and I used to make jokes about picking a colour and having a meal where we only had foods in that colour, and since the produce section and my local store is so small in comparison, it would be a pretty pitiful meal here. Especially for the colour purple.

Paris Below

After the Bateau Mouche, I went out for dinner at a place that had really great service but terribly awful food. Luckily the wine and the coffee were good. Just... terrible food. No taste to it, very bland, all organic. Gah. Add some *spice* for crying out loud.

Afterwards I had the sudden recollection that I was going to be leaving Paris the next morning, and had several postcards to send, but no stamps.

Paris has a 24-hour Post Office, and if I had done things right, I would be able to get there, buy some stamps, get back on the metro and head back to the hotel to get just enough sleep to not miss the plane. Or so was the theory.

Instead, I got lost, and somehow ended up in Paris Below.

I stumbled into an area of Paris where the lights were even dimmer than usual. The whole city seems to have less light in the streets than anywhere else I've been except China. Which isn't a complaint - light polution is annoying - but it was very disturbing to go from the dimly lit streets to this even more dimly lit area, with only pedistrains in it. The sounds from the main street (which it turned out I was only two blocks away from) completely died, and there was no noise at all except for a trickling fountain and the sound of low-voiced French.

The main area seemed to be a square of some sort with this fountain in it. I don't know how to describe it in any way that gives the scene the sense it had. I actually had the thought Why am I in one of those scary circuses they show in cartoons all the time? I so felt like I didn't belong, and that I was unwelcome. Groups and couples were sitting or standing or walking around with a definite sense of this being a regular thing, but it was eerie in the way their voices echoed off the walls, the way there was no sound of traffic. I felt a million miles away from the crowded streets I was on just a few minutes before.

I finally figured out the direction I needed to walk in to at least be in the area of the post office, but all of the streets were still part of this. I passed no cars, only people, and from some of them felt that sense of malice that I think only comes when you're in the wrong place, and you know it, and they know it. I tried not to act like it bothered me, but I find it unlikely that I suceeded, which just made me stand out more.

I walked down a street with a canal on one side of it, large trees on either side of the canal. I could hear something that sounded like a drive-in theater, or maybe a movie playing against a building. I could hear the dialog clearly, but couldn't see or get any idea where the noise was coming from.

After twenty minutes of walking, I stumbled back onto a busy street, lights bright enough to hurt my eyes after the semi-darkness. I found my way, slowly, to the post office, bought my stamps, and took a cab back to the hotel.

I could have walked, but who knows if I would have chosen to make it back.

Sorry Cow

I do actually try not to put a bunch of fluff on my blog, but sometimes I just can't help myself.

Real Blog Entry Soon. As in, right after I get a glass of milk.

About October 2005

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

September 2005 is the previous archive.

November 2005 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.