When I was in college, I had opportunity to study in Scotland, not properly an exchange program, but an American program in a manor house near Edinburgh, and it was good, I never considered myself to be particularly close-minded, midwest small city, insular, but I really got a chance to see a bit. I had either zero, or thirteen, majors at the time, so it wasn't going to cost me time*. While Scotland was at the time not my first choice for travel, it had always fascinated me (being German, that was firstest, but while I got a few days there on spring break during my semester in Scotland, I haven't really done the Deutsche thing, not like Sweetie anyhow, or my parents. Poop.) After all, castles, The Quest For The Holy Grail, Hound of the Baskervilles (I know, not Scotland, but tell a 12 year old moors, and his mind goes to
Ten days after Lockerbie. paleo had never been on an airliner. The airliner had never had a passenger as
The manor was very cool, large walled-in grounds. There was a royal room that had been used by previous monarchs. The royal room, the Queen's room, had an anteroom for attendants (with a 'hidden' door to the Queen's room), supposedly haunted (the estate was on the British Registry of Haunted Places, so I was thoroughly geeked out. The houseman demonstrated that his dogs would not go through the passage - and there were a few good ghost stories that came out of our semester. W00t! Of course, my friends and I, being the only people open to ghosts in the first place, and up at all hours, particularly in the library, both sober and somewhat-less-than, didn't see shit. GODDAMMIT.)
I got my ear pierced for the first time. Having imbibed a three liter bottle of Strongbow strong cider, and having been convinced -
"C'mon paleo, don't be a wuss. Just imagine a bowling ball being yanked through your penis. That's giving birth, you wimp!"
- by several wonderful female friends,
they took advantage of my reflexively protecting my junk to hold two icecubes on my ear lobe, heat a safety pin with a lighter, and poink. Of course, within 3 weeks my ear had turned black, and as punk as it looked, I had to take it out. (I got it pierced again, properly, the next semester, impressing the hell out of my dad, not in a no-son-of-mine way, but more of a what-an-idiot way.)
The back 40 of the estate, actually, the back several hundred (acres), was old growth, with a stream, we called it the Magic Forest. For a kid who'd spent a decade playing D&D, wanting to be Thorin Oakenshield (don't judge - I was always a huge fan of the dwarves, huge appetites for life), watching every version of Robin Hood, it was Lothlorien.
Also on the grounds was a small adventure course, like a strenuous obstacle course, included a zipline. I am not now, nor have I ever been, especially skinny - converting my weight in pounds to the old english measurement, stones, became a number that may have led me to my degree in geology - but on the zipline I was able to test certain theories of physics, and was quite surprised. The immediate acceleration and the low tension on the line itself resulted in my ass hitting the ground much harder than I expected.
On this trip to the UK I went to Dublin for St. Patrick's Day. It is not like the big city green beer vomitfests we've become accustomed to, but they do have their fun. This was during a flareup of the troubles, and Belfast port (the ferry from Glasgow) was crawling with very young, very heavily armed British soldiers. There was a car bombing in Newry that, in retrospect, was within a couple hours after our going past the tracks. None of this affected us (I was with a friend on this road trip) as much as the young lady we met on the ferry back to Glasgow. Very nice, a hairstyle that appeared as though a Pittsburgh Paints factory exploded, enough piercings to make a 19 year old boy v-e-e-r-r-y curious, Irish accent. We were hitting it off rather nicely until we got off the ferry, going through security, I was searched, she was skipped, my friend was searched. As we escaped earshot of the customs station, she exhaled, speaking quickly "Thank God, I've got a bunch of speed for my boyfriend..." Um. Are you frakkin' crazy, lady, gonna get us deported-arrested-beaten like a redheaded stepchild? I can laugh, in retrospect, but holy shit.
I took a second trip to Scotland in my senior year, made it a two-week spring break, and those credit cards just seemed to show up in the mail as we needed them, so there we go. Drove from Edinburgh to John O'Groats, slept in the parking lot of Castle Urquart and was not digested by some ancient beastie, merely snowed on a little. One of the mighty travelers had decided to eat every cheese in the Cheese Shop sketch, only learning in the middle of a night that cheeses are often packaged in wax, when the first slice seemed to lack a little something. From John O'Groats we determined to drive to Land's End, I don't recall if we made it but we did reach the SW seaside of England. Many back roads in the UK, especially in No. Scotland, are single lane, with turnouts for two cars meeting. It was a one of these turnouts that I introduced a Royal Mail truck driver to the worldly and sophisticated ways of an American, who has not yet, for the record, learned his right from his left, by nearly killing him, turning out to the wrong side. I suspect those rapid and heavily accented words and gestures were those of gratitude?
Times ago, times ago. I know, TL;DR, but thanks for letting me ramble.
One other thing I acquired from there, being a music guy, is a huge appreciation of Scottish/Irish folk music, from pipes and fiddle to folk-punk. Not necessarily the new-age stuff, and Michael Flatley should be deported. Ceilidhs, babies.
If you are not dancing like a bastard to this, seek the help of a qualified mortician.
The Battlefield Band, Dougie Pincock on the pipes, from Home Ground - Pincock's Pleasure
Also, my first 'video', kinda proud, I'll get better.
Because I really need more distractions.
This is such a beautiful song. Dougie MacLean - Caledonia
Back on yer feet, ya buggers!
Kinda brings us full circle to the top o' teh post!
Ooo, one more - an American folk band from the 60's, but doing a cover of an English song...
*Someday, when I get ranty, which never happens so I don't know why I even bring it up, I'll tell y'all about my opinions and shit about American higher education. Right now, however, I am in a good mood and plan to stay there.