September 4, 2015

Observations from the Mothership: Day 3

The Day I Planned Badly

Today I had great plans to spend the day in the Edinburgh archives before heading down to Derby for an event tomorrow.  Problem is, because the bus tour never finished up last night like it was supposed to, I felt obligated to complete it in the morning before my 24-hour ticket expired, especially since I'd already paid for it.  Turns out if we're going by stereotypes, I'm definitely a little on the Scottish side.  Waste not, want not, right? 

So I did what any dutiful Scot would do--I went to finish my bus tour.  And I enjoyed it, not the least because of the gloriously beautiful weather the day brought.  I saw the birthplace of Alistair Sim, arguably the quintessential Scrooge, a building unironically titled Kickass Hostels, and a road entitled Cowgate, which just made me think it involved some kind of sinister plot involving Hairy Coos and the ghost of Richard Nixon.

A hairy coo is a happy coo.

While on the bus I also passed a whole street of used bookstores (fortunately the subsequent drooling was dispersed by wind since I was on the upper deck of an open air bus), learned that 50 years ago Sean Connery was a nude life model for art students (when he wasn't delivering milk or polishing coffins), and was utterly confounded by the life-sized statue of a zebra looking out on the street from inside an office building's window.  This bizarrity was second only to being told upon viewing a large statue of King George I that he had once visited Scotland for which he had swathed his 25-stone frame (that's around 350 lbs to you and me) in an entirely too-short kilt, causing some lady of the aristocracy to comment that if he'd "worn a longer kilt we'd have seen much less of him."  We were told his questionable attire may have also been the inspiration for the rhyme about Georgie Porgie kissing the girls and making them cry.  The more you know...

While on the bus tour I availed myself of the "hop-on, hop-off" feature to visit Holyrood Palace (the Queen's official residence when in Scotland) for the first time.  It was pretty typical as museums go, though I did enjoy getting to see Mary Stuart's and Lord Darnley's apartments, particularly the samples of a letter and some embroidery done by Mary's own hand.  Near the end of the tour I passed a room filled with family portraits of Queen Elizabeth's and felt a little like things had come full circle.

Holyrood Palace...or an extra-fancy parking lot.  Either way.

The Holyrood gardens were closed for some rare care exhibition, but there were a few cars in the forecourt I got to see, including a classic Rolls Royce and a Jaguar.  After finishing my tour I grabbed a quick bite at the Holyrood Cafe where I learned that Mac n' Cheese with broad beans mixed in is not quite as bad as it sounds.  Made for a weird texture, though, not unlike putting pebbles in one's pasta.

When you care enough to drive the very best.

After Holyrood I finished the bus tour, collected the assorted souvenirs requested of me (including an Outlander-inspired ring for myself), and headed over to the archives.  To my chagrin, I found that I had only a couple of hours left before the archive closed.  Still I went, only to be told that it would cost £15 regardless how long I was there and that I could only search something quickly if I had a name.  I offered a couple from the Scott line but was met with supreme skepticism, so I asked if they had wi-fi, thinking I could look more detail up on my phone (my computer was in lockup at the hotel).  After a suffering a look of piteous scorn, I was directed to the shopping area next door...which also lacked free wi-fi. By the time I'd found a McDonald's and written out the entire branch of the tree I realized I'd only have around 40 minutes to go searching and gave it up as a bad job.  I have absolutely no doubt that the staff in the Archives building were relieved the idiot American with no sense of preparation had disappeared.  Seriously, though--how does a library/archive not have wi-fi these days??

I couldn't go anywhere without seeing these signs any more than I could keep from filling in the missing 'i' every single time

On the one hand I was pretty annoyed with myself, knowing full well that the previous day's oversleeping was largely responsible for my missing most of the day planned in the archives today whether because of a lack of time or because I hadn't properly prepared as a result.  So really, I've no one to blame but myself.  On the other hand, I realized that even if I spent every hour of every day that I'm here in a library or an archive, I still would only be scratching the surface of what I want to learn.  There simply isn't enough time to search everything out when it's scattered in so many different parts of both this country and the US.  As a result, I refuse to punish myself for not completing the impossible.  I can still walk the roads my ancestors trod and can still see the countryside which they helped build and still get to know the local people who likely share many of those ancestors with me.  At the end of the day, that is enough.  Any additional information I can uncover is simply icing on the cake.  This trip is a birthday party, after all, and one that includes all sorts of people:  the random pipers busking on corners, the dude with the ear hole plugs sporting Captain America shields, the storekeeper of Indian descent with the very incongruous Scots accent, the rapidly scurrying students everywhere in their tights and skirts and hipster pants...these are my people, and I am them.

After this little epiphany I went to collect my belongings and and head to Derby a little early.  On the way I grabbed a Cornish Pasty (I am becoming seriously addicted to those things) filled with bacon and cheese and potatoes and tasting distinctly like a loaded baked potato pie.  Then I boarded my train, which was packed full of people.  The trip went smoothly enough, at least till we neared Darlington, which had been compromised by a blackout and was therefore delaying trains while trying to restore the signalling system.  It took nearly two hours before we got moving again, but I eventually made my way safely into Darlington and onto Derby, assuming you think dragging my luggage through the streets of Derby at midnight to the hotel constitutes "safe."  But all went well, and now I get to look forward to Whooverville tomorrow with Dean!!

Kilt Count: 9.5, the .5 being an adorable wee lad in full regalia for a wedding.  It also includes two
                          students wearing kilts over pants, which should not count

Trews Count:  2, not counting the trews and girl kilts worn as uniforms by staff at Holyrood House.

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