Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Garret

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The Garret is a lovely place – a bedsit or studio style apartment. The series of buildings is owned by the Uni and built in the late 1800’s I’ve been told. They would be townhouses in the U.S. A flat on the ground level and a “first floor” flat with a second floor. The windows give good light and would give plenty of cross-circulation if I ever saw the need to air out the room. People here are constantly opening windows to get rid of the humidity and to air out the rooms. I find it hard to get excited about reducing the minimal heat to 50 or below just for the sake of fresh air. I can go outside for that.
(And apparently I cannot upload images here so I’ll put them up on Facebook instead.)
I have a lovely sitting area by the east window through which the notorious North East wind blows from the North Sea. If it’s particularly bad, I throw a duvet up there to squelch the draft. The landlady has offered curtains but first one of us has to go buy curtain rods. Meanwhile, I have a combo duvet closet and refrigerator.
So, my sitting room has two nice recliners that can be fit together for a couch if needed. Then I have a kitchen table/desk with a couple chairs and a bookshelf holding the meagre supply of books I hauled along plus various teas and biscuits. And porridge.
On the West side of the room, the window is double-glazed. Something the Uni is supposed to do to the back window as well, someday. I can look out on the silver-gray granite street and sidewalks as well as face the dormer from the Humanities Manse. I can also hear the traffic noises so am pretty sure I know when it is time to arise from slumber.
Beneath the street window is a low dresser that has become my ‘kitchen’. I have a slow-cooker and electric teapot. I’ve been able to make or warm up meals in the crockpot and then overnight put in the porridge for a hot Scottish breakfast. I see there is a new little shop up the street that serves porridge in the a.m.s, but I’d have to get dressed to go there. There always seem to be students hanging around there, though.
The lady who lives here has managed to frame several of her sons’ drawings from younger days and I have one of those crayon drawings of two pots of flowers above my dresser. It’s rather nice, actually, and I enjoy having it here.
There’s no closet, of course, but we found a stand-alone rod that is big enough not only to hold my hanging garments but also to hide my luggage.
Laundry is always a bit different here. IF someone owns a combination washer-dryer, they don’t use the dryer. So, various contraptions have been invented for holding wet clothing while it slowly dries in the sixty degree temps. Most gardens (yards) have an umbrella style clothesline and housewives will hang out anytime there is a nice wind and no rain. I found a little radiator dryer – a contraption that fits on top of the radiator with about 4 lines on which to hang unmentionables. I was provided with a larger “air dryer” — like a two sided metal tepee on which to hang larger items. I’ve found that I can slide it over the electric heater for my room which aids in drying. Does that make it an electric dryer? Most things seem to dry overnight even without the electric heat. So, it is doable for small quantities of wash. I wouldn’t have wanted this system when there were 8 of us – especially as everyone reached the teen years!
Well, that’s all the news for now. Check out the pictures on Facebook if you want.

crockpots

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Otherwise known over here as slow-cookers.
So, I’m all moved into my garret now and although I have use of the kitchen and the bathroom, I’ve been trying to cook mostly with the slow-cooker in my room. Since the landlady is vegetarian, I thought that would be more pleasant for her, not having the smell of roasting flesh filling up her kitchen. So far the cooking is going remarkably well. I need to improve my spices, but that is an ongoing project.

I have even managed to cook porridge over night as well! Very proud of myself, I am! Staying with Elspeth spoiled me. She made porridge every morning and after two weeks, it had become ingrained in me. Now I don’t feel right without it. Ah, well. I may come home with a brogue.

Alfred Hitchcock is an Englishman

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And I’m sure that he wrote his twilight zone story about busses here. You know the one, a dark country road and the bus is full of people and it keeps driving and driving and driving and never gets to where anyone can get off?

It was a busy day. And instead of going home at 1.30, I did some shopping. Important stuff. Duvet covers and such like for my new flat. So I got to the bus station in time to catch the 4:00 bus. Nice. Or so I thought. There was traffic and it was really really slow, just creeping along. And it started getting dark. And I couldn’t see any signs for anything. And we kept going and going. I figured well, we didn’t get out of the city until 5 so it’ll take a while before we get to my village. And, besides, LOTS of people get off at Dyce so I’ll know when that happens and I get off just past that. Well, I finally asked the nice young man sitting next to me what village we were coming to. He told me but I couldn’t understand the name – not familiar at all. He asked where I needed to get off and I told him New Machar. Well, we passed that forty minutes ago! Right. Of course we did! Well, at least this time I was absolutely positive that I had gotten on the right bus because I had double checked that. All I have to do is get off at the next village and cross the road and get the bus going back. (I have this magic bus pass for the month. And, believe me, I have thoroughly abused it!) So, the Nice Young Man says, I’m getting off at Turriff pretty soon and you should get off with me there because there is a covered bus stop so you don’t have to stand in the rain. So, that’s what we did.

I got off and he pointed me across the road to the covered stop. Another bus should be along in 20 min. or less. There were already people waiting at the bus and it was in the center of town. (At no time today did I feel unsafe. Just saying.) Everyone has always been very kind and helpful, whether they thought I was a Canadian or an American. And, as Elspeth says, the people who get corralled into my adventures will dine off the story of the lost American for a week.

So, I’m just at the new stop and my phone rings. Hi Elspeth! I am Fine! I am taking the Long Way Home again! Well, where are you? Turriff. WHERE? And everyone at the stop yells TOOrriff. TOOriff. Ok. I really will make it home. Everything is fine.

And a couple at the stop starts talking to me. They are traveling to Aberdeen and from there only God knows where they’re headed. Really. I’m not sure they had made up their mind. The woman was a nice 40ish woman, well-spoken, helpful. The man who was with her was definitely one of the caricatures from a BBC sitcom. I don’t know which one and I have no idea why they were traveling together but he.was.a.caricature!!! You know how sitcoms are funny mostly because we actually know someone like them? Big Bang theory. We know physicists! Seinfeld. We know George – he lives next door! I am amazed at all the UK sitcom people I’ve met and had to say, oh, my word, there really are people like that here! Fortunately, they are very few and far between, but it is always a stunner. An example: She said, “Now, Richard, when the bus comes you need to keep your mouth closed. You can’t talk to the bus driver or he’ll recognize your accent and throw you off the bus. You DO want to get to Aberdeen tonight, don’t you?” And he says he is a Scot and had lived here for 10 years. I don’t know where his accent came from other than a sitcom. Like I said, I do not know why they were traveling together. That would probably be a very long story in itself. Anyway, they kept me entertained and awed enough that the time at the stop went both very quickly and excruciatingly slow.

When I got on the bus I made sure to ask the driver to tell me when we got to my village. He was a nice young man, too. And, so, eventually, down the long long dark road, I saw the sign and got up to get off. It turns out I got off at the top end of the road so I needed to walk through the whole downtown (there are three shops and a couple pubs) to get to my turn off. I found my way home with no troubles and the dog Abby was delighted to see me since Elspeth had gone to her meetings. Oh, yes, she kept in touch with me in case I needed rescuing. Again. But, I am learning. I am competent. I will never take the bus home in the dark again!! And I think I may just stay in bed tomorrow.
And Elspeth will probably dine off my adventures for months.

Busses – navigating Scotland

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So Monday was the first day I took the regional bus into the city to get to the Uni. That worked well enough. I got off at the right stop and walked the four blocks downhill to the Hub – where the Tiki Bar/Café resides. One can catch a city bus on that street and in fact I did so in the evening going home. It was a lot easier to ride a bus one stop rather than walk uphill the whole four blocks again in the dark cold windy night. But, back to the morning. I got to the Uni and signed in because we foreigners have to sign in every week without fail or the Uni gets in trouble with the Immigration system. Licensing and stuff. And I figured if I made a habit of planning to sign in on Monday, I’d have the whole week to remember.

My big projects for the day were to meet some people at the chaplaincy who might have leads on a flat for rent. But it was Monday so chaplains and other ministerial folk take a light day. But I got a one contact although I don’t know how viable it will be. And to see if I could connect again to the wifi there. I could, but only Uni sites. Will have to figure that one out later. I did some errands downtown and got green pea soup and a sausage roll at the Old Toone Shoppe. I met with my new supervisor and had a good meeting. First thing up is to pull together the Bibliography so see if there are any gaps. Then I headed back to Elspeth’s.

As noted previously, I caught a bus going up the hill and crossed the street to get on the Bluebird bus going out of town. I waited and eventually a 307 came by so I got on, remembering that the 305, 306, or 307 would get me to New Machar. Or so I thought. I texted Elspeth and she texted back that I was ON THE WRONG BUS!! So, I had to wake the drowsing lady next to me to find out where I was headed and where to get off so that E could quickly dash off in the middle making of supper in order to pick me up. Fortunately, I was not headed in the entirely wrong direction and the Blessed Elspeth knew exactly where to pick me up. She has now christened me the local Boffin. (= airhead, blonde, etc.)

Tuesday I stayed home to rest my weary body and find the webcam. I slept for 11 hours – something I have not done in years. It was nice and cozy here and I got pretty much nothing accomplished except Skyping with the twins. Since I had found the webcam hidden away in one of the suitcases, that was much easier. They thought it was funny that I would be talking to them over the computer and were quite happy to SEE me on the computer. And it was nice for me to see that everyone was alive and mostly well and not suffering unbearably in my absence. Now, on to Wednesday.

Today, being Wednesday, I got up at a reasonable time and made it out the door to get the 9 a.m. bus. Well done, Lo! And I got on the 305 bus (the right one!) and headed of to Abdn. I was watching for my roundabout to get off and take a city bus downtown. But, this time, the bus headed down through a series of hospitals and a different section of town to Union St. Well, that’s all fine and good. I’m downtown at the bus station and I can do my errands and take the city bus up to the Uni. No problems. So, I did! Love Poundland! Love Poundstretcher! (The UK equivalents of Dollar Tree, etc.) And I managed to catch the 20 bus to the Uni. It’s very much a Uni route – drops one off in the middle of campus. There are probably about 5 different routes one can take to campus but this one hits the middle. Right next to the Olde Toone Shoppe for lunch. Lentil soup this time and a fruit scone to take home and heat for snack. So, I sat in front of the old worker’s church next to The Wall (UK for ATM) for my little picnic. It is normal here to eat outside picnics with your jackets and hats on. Especially in the summer! But I figured since the temps were somewhere in the 50’s it counted for close enough to summer. I managed to get on the wifi again (do I seem a little paranoid about this?) and EVEN managed to FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS to get on sites other than the abdn site! Whoo-hoo!

Now, all that’s left is to get the right bus home to Elspeth’s — in daylight! I trudged up the hill this time just to time it. 15 min. So that’s not too bad. And I found the right bus stop. Also, nae sa bad. And I waited and waited and waited. And a 307 went by. And another 307 went by. And at least FOUR 307’s went by in the hour and a half I waited. I am wishing I had a little pamphlet that tells me if the 305 actually stops here on a Wed aft or if it is only on odd days of the month. I try to think of options. How do I get back home without being a boffin again? Of course there were 17’s and 21’s and other city busses. Some actually go to the airport. Maybe I could take a bus to the airport and taxi home? If it starts pouring rain I might. Or just call a taxi from here and say please pick up the forlorn old woman at the roundabout? Or could I …. A 325 bus came. It has a 3 and it has a 5. I got on and I ASKED THE DRIVER if he went to New Machar and he says he does. Good. And, as I watch through the windows (that are clean enough to see through on this bus), I recognize landmarks and road names. Whew! Then we pull into the ASDA (=Walmart) parking lot and I see this is the end of the 17 and 21 lines so if I ever get stuck totally, I can take either of those and just hang out at the café until someone rescues me.

So we pull into the village and I get off at the right stop. And I walk across the street and down and keep walking down the street and it’s just not going the way I thought it would. Well, things don’t look the same going back along the same path. I knew that. And some of the street names seemed familiar. And it is NOT a big town. I’d walked halfway around it with the dog one day. Ah! I found a little lane – That’s what I forgot! I needed to take the little lane back. So, onward and upward and why doesn’t this seem like the right lane? OK. Now I’m at the Church and how did that happen? Oh, well. This is not a large village. So, I follow the road away from the Church and find my way pretty quickly home. I think the next time I walk to the bus stop, I will need to stop and turn around at each corner so I recognize how to get back? Maybe I should take my camera so I have a photo file of my path? At least I haven’t had any troubles unlocking the door. Abby the dog was soooo happy to see me! And thought I should take her out for a walk. But, the tea kettle was still warm so she was not in desperate straits and I desperately needed to put my feet up. So, here I am, sitting on my sofa by the electric fire with my hot cuppa tea!

Burns Night

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Sometime in January the Scots celebrate Burns Night! It can be quite an elaborate affair or so I understand. One celebrates Robert Burns, the Scot and the Poet and all things Scottish. Elspeth took me to the local celebration in town put on by the Aurora Club, the local Scottish dancing club. They put on classes and encourage all ages including Uni students to learn and enjoy the local traditions. Some of them even go on tour. We’ll have to check to see if they ever show up in Bethlehem.

So we dressed up in swirly skirts and headed down the back of the village walking along the stream to the Community Center. It was byob but there was plenty of byo to share around. All the men were in kilts and accessories although I didn’t see any dirks. Probably a good thing, although they did seem to be quite happy and easy going folk. I finally met Elspeth’s sister and partner – she keeps hens and encourages an organic lifestyle, obviously an intelligent woman! Immediately, a kilted Scot came up to hand us something to drink. Now, I know well enough not to take strange drinks from strangers so I asked what it was. Apple juice and white wine. Pretty tame and everyone knew everyone else here. I decided they weren’t pranking the foreigner. Pretty soon someone was banging on the pans – time to sit for the haggis.

We took our places and the skirling piper appeared at the door leading the way while The Haggis was carried on a silver plate around the room until placed at the head of the table with great honour and flourish! Another woman at the head table recited Burns’ poem to The Haggis with great feeling! And then stabbed the beast so it could be et. We all dashed to the buffet to gather our share of the beastly Haggis (and the vegetarian Haggis, as well), the bashed neeps (turnips) and champet tatties (mashed potatoes). All provided by the Auroras.

Once the main course had sustained adequate damages, we were on to the sweets and puddings table. One young man had brought his own speciality: a layer of jelly with Pims, a layer of custard with Lager and 2” of whipped cream with whiskey. And a warning on a napkin. I did not partake since I needed to walk home and had not noticed any wheelbarrows outside for rounding up the last stragglers, but the general consensus seemed to indicate that it was quite good.

Soon the tables were pushed to the side, the musicians took their places and the dancing began. Two of the musicians were on the youngish side but were definitely holding up their end of the band. My poor arthritic feet unfortunately could not be trusted to withstand the rigors of the dances. So many offers to dance, “This is an easy one!” but age and experience is not without its wisdom.

We’ll see if I can manage to put up a couple of the videos for your enjoyment.