Thursday, June 23, 2005

a big update, and coming home

Amazingly, I finished packing myself up and cleaning my room about 10 minutes before the porter was supposed to come check me out (and he's still not here yet, anyway). So, I thought I'd let you all know what I've been up to for the last week or so, before starting War of the Worlds for the Chronicles book club (finally!).


From the 14th to the 21st of June, I travelled around Scotland. I first went to Inverness and 'made camp' there for the night. Inverness was a very lovely little town, the kind of place where I thought I could live. I also stayed in what became one of my favorite hostels (Eastgate Backpackers, if anyone's interested). The next morning I went out to Culloden Battlefield, to see where the Jacobites and Bonnie Prince Charlie were defeated in 1746, in the last battle to be fought on British soil (so far).

After Culloden, I hopped on a bus to Ullapool and then took the ferry to Stornoway, in the Outer Hebrides. Stornoway is the capital of the Outer Hebrides, and it's a 'big' port on the Isle of Lewis. The main part of town is rather blah, but when I walked out into the residential areas a bit more, I found it quite lovely. While there I also travelled across the island to see the Callanish Standing Stones, which were quite fascinating. After that I tried to take the bus up to the northern tip of the island to see the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis, but I missed a connecting bus and ended up having to hitch-hike the 14 miles to the lighthouse. The first man who picked me up was a local, and he took me about halfway to where I was going, chatting amiably the whole way. (He had a great Hebridean accent, which is quite unique, and it was fun to listen to him talk.) After he let me out, I then found a nice little family from Wigan who took me the rest of the way to the lighthouse. There were a husband and wife, Terry and Irene, along with Irene's Aunt Irene and their dog Marcus. They were there on holiday, and they happened to be going to the lighthouse, so they took me there with them. In fact, when we arrived there, they offered to take me back to Stornoway. They were a very sweet family, quintessentially English, and I was very glad to have met them.

After a few days in the Outer Hebrides, I then went down to stay a few days in a little village a few miles from Loch Ness. I had to wait two hours in Inverness for a connecting bus, and while I was there, I ran into the missionaries, so I stopped and asked them if there was a ward in Inverness, where and when they met, and promised to do my best to make it there on Sunday. When I got to the hostel in Lewiston, there were lots of people there, all of whom seemed to know each other. I met a girl named Scout from Austin, Texas, who had been backpacking around the UK by herself for the last month or so. We walked down the road to see Urquhart Castle together, and I had a really nice time chatting with her. The castle (which has been in ruins since 1691) is closed at night, so we climbed a fence to get to it (only after having been assured by the lady at the hostel that no one would care). In fact, when we got down to the castle, we found half a dozen others there. We had a fun time exploring the ruins in the semi-darkness, having set out from the hostel around 11:00 pm. When we got back to the hostel at 1:00 am, there was still visible daylight in the west. That's one of the cool things about Scotland, how little darkness there is in the summer. In fact, that's one of the reasons I waited so long to go to Scotland -- I had thought about going in November last year, but decided I couldn't cope with the darkness for practically the whole day. There was very little to do in Lewiston or Drumnadrochit, unless you wanted to pay exorbitant fees, which I didn't, so I spent most of the day on some walks around the area. In the morning I walked through a wetland forest to get to the edge of Loch Ness, and when I got there I found a film crew just taking down their equipment. I got chatting with them and learned that they were filming a program for the National Geographic Channel about the science of the loch. Gotta watch out for that one in the future. (They said it was supposed to air in the States in about 3-4 months.)

The next day was Sunday, and so I first went to church in Inverness. The ward there was very small, but I found them very friendly. In fact, they were so friendly that they asked me to bear my testimony as the first speaker in Sacrament Meeting. (!) I told them I would, even though I felt very self-conscious and out of place in my courderoy pants and Lancaster University hoodie. I left church about 15 minutes early to catch my train to Edinburgh, where I spent the last two days of my trip. When I first got there on Sunday afternoon and checked in to the hostel, I really didn't like the city, and told my dad that when I called him to wish him a happy Father's Day. But as I walked around the city the next day and got more familiar with it, I began to like it a lot. Enough that I think I could live there, after all, but only for a few months at a time. Unless, that is, I could convince them to let me be a tour guide at the Georgian House. :)

Last Days in England

So, here I am, all packed and ready to come home. I was quite sure that there was no possible way to get everything I own into the two suitcases and two carry-ons that I have. Shockingly, though, I got it all in, and finished quite a bit earlier than I had expected to. The GradStock end-of-year festival is going on right outside my window (and I do mean right outside), so I get to listen to all kinds of loud live music until well into the night. Unfortunately, most of it is terrible, but occasionally a good band comes along. It's now well over an hour past the time when the porter was supposed to come check me out of my room, so I suppose I'd better go make sure he realizes he's supposed to see me. After that I'll call and order a cab for tomorrow, then call my parents, and then do some reading before going to bed.

"Let their motto be, 'Hunt, shoot, and fight - the rest is not worth a fillip!' Such should be my device, were I a man." (15 points for the source, plus an extra 10 if you can name the person who says it)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

hi there!

So, I haven't posted anything for a long, long time. Sorry that I don't have the time to do much more right now. Suffice to say, first, that I had a smashing time in Scotland; and second, that I am Chewbacca. (!)

The Classic Star Wars Test
Katrina M., you're Chewbacca

No disrespect to your hair stylist, but you have more in common with Chewbacca the loyal Wookie than you might think. Like "Chewey," you are a powerful force to be reckoned with. Whether you are playing pick-up sports with friends or interviewing for a job, your competitive nature is virtually unbeatable (and more than a little intimidating). But you have a definite gentle side too — a part of you that is more bark than bite and even longs for a cuddle or two.

When it comes to friends, it's quality not quantity. And you're usually the first one on the scene when someone needs a little rescuing (emotional or otherwise). You have a simple sense of right and wrong, and when someone crosses the line, you let them know. You're the ideal righthand man/woman — strong, stable, and ultimately incorruptible.

I took this test on Tickle, which has some interesting and very silly quizzes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

happy, happy day!

Please come now, I think I'm falling, holding on to all I think is safe. (23 points)

Check it out -- the weather forecast for the next 10 days is gorgeous!! Happy day! That makes such a difference, and I've been feeling much more productive lately. It's supposed to be relatively nice in Scotland at the beginning of next week, too, which is good since that's where I'll be.

Things are beginning to wind down here. I've been speaking to people about preparations for leaving -- how to submit my dissertation from home, paperwork that needs to be filled out, getting my housing deposit back, and so on. (Bonus quote for 11 points: "Et cetela, et cetela, et cetela.")

Nathan from the ward lent us his DVDs of The Office recently, and JoAnna and I watched the first 3 episodes last Sunday. It was very funny! I hear they're making an American version, but I wonder if it can possibly be as good without Martin Freeman and Ricky Gervais.

I'd probably better get going now. When I got lunch today, I fancied a Dr. Pepper, and now my fingers are trying to move way too quickly, while my brain has slowed down considerably. So before I make a complete fool of myself, I'll sign off!

Monday, June 6, 2005

my latest pastime ...

For Family Home Evening tonight, we had a little "bridal shower" for Sarah, whose wedding is July 30th. As our final activity, we played poker with candy for betting chips. We had a good time, and I really enjoyed learning to play poker. And it helped that I came out the clear winner.
Cards are war in disguise of a sport. (35 points)

diversions and Bath water

I went to Bath last weekend (Thurs - Sat) and had a very nice time. The Backpacker's where I stayed was right in the middle of town, practically, just around the corner from the Abbey, Pump Room, and Roman Baths. It was certainly not the nicest hostel I've stayed at, but it was very friendly -- I've never been greeted so happily by so many people at any other hostel I've stayed in.

On Thursday night I went to see "Princess Ida," performed by the Bath Gilbert & Sullivan Society. It was a very fun play/opera, but the performance was poor. They didn't take the time to really milk the comedy of so many lines and scenes. Also,
"the dancing was a lamentable mess!" (18 points).
They did it in sort of Tudor-ish period (16th, maybe 17th century), but I thought it would have been a lot of fun as a Regency or even Victorian period. Except that you might have to change some things around a bit (such as, perhaps, changing the kings to Dukes).

Friday morning I went to the Roman Baths, which are outrageously expensive. It's worth it if you're into Roman culture, as there are all kinds of ruins and artifacts in there. But I was mostly excited to get to the Pump Room and "take the waters." The room was very different from what I had expected it to be -- much more elegant. There is now a restaurant in there run by Searcy's, which is a very swanky, posh, expensive restaurant company that owns restaurants in some really high-scale places, including the Royal Opera and the National Portrait Gallery. And, of course, the Pump Room. Anyway, I decided to have breakfast in the Pump Room. Technically, it was elevenses, but I hadn't eaten anything else that morning, so it was doing double duty. The meal I ordered included a glass of Bath spa water, and I drank it with relish, hoping against hope that it would cure my awful cold. It wasn't nearly as bad as I had been led to expect by everyone I talked to in the weeks before my trip. There are 43 minerals in it, including a very high amount of iron, so you can imagine what it tasted like: warm water with an iron-ish flavor. I also got to be there while the Pump Room Trio was there -- a piano trio playing nice (mostly modern) classical music. It was very relaxing, and I completely understand how people could have spent a whole morning in that room.

After that, I mostly wandered around Bath for the day, looking at the beautiful architecture and finding as many as possible of the famous streets and places that are invariably mentioned in any romance novel set in Bath (including Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, the latter of which I used as my journal this trip). Along the way I listened to some talks on my iPod in preparation for my Relief Society lesson this Sunday. I stopped at the Assembly Rooms as well, and that was very nice. In the basement is a museum of costume, but I decided not to go in there. I just hung out upstairs, mostly in the octagon room. Annoyingly, all the rest of it was officially closed in preparation for some concerts for the Bath International Music Festival. They didn't tell me that, though, and so I managed to 'sneak' my way in to the Tea Room as well, but I was discovered there and informed that the room was closed, and that put a stop to any attempt to see the ballroom on the other side of the building.

That night I decided to go on a walking tour called "Bizarre Bath." It was entertaining, which was the point. It wasn't intended to really give you any information about Bath, but it took you around the very centre of town, and he pointed out some silly things to you, told jokes, and did some magic tricks. My favorite part, probably, was something I had also noticed earlier in the day; namely, the fact that, not 20 feet away from the imposing and quite beautiful Bath Abbey, there was a little shabby building labelled as the Seventh-Day Adventist church of Bath.

I got some nice pictures, though most of them look a lot alike: crescents of 3-1/2 - storey Georgian townhouses. In any case, though, I now have photos to prove that I was in Bath, and I can put an image with the places in Persuasion.