Tuesday, 26 November 2013

First leg of the Journey: Edinburgh

On Calton Hill in Edinburgh.

Well, Halloween/ All Soul's Day was certainly more memorable this year than it ever was, and, I hope, ever will be. I found out on the 1st of November that my father had died, late on Halloween night (technically early in the morning on the 1st). To say that this came as a shock would be an understatement. He wasn't ill, we none of us were expecting this at all. His father and grandfathers were all very long-lived, and for him to die at the age of 72 wasn't something my family thought would happen.

Of course, everyone wanted me to come home. I wanted to come home too, but didn't think I could, since the UK Border Agency still had my passport and visa (I don't think I've mentioned that fiasco on this blog - just that I had to apply for an extra year as the UKBA made a mistake and only gave me a visa for 3 years instead of the 4 that I need). My friends Janet and Lorie were inestimably helpful in getting ahold of the US consulate in Edinburgh, and helping me to fill out things I needed to fill out, etc. etc. I made an appointment with the US consulate and I persuaded Rachel to accompany me. I should briefly mention that the international student services at my uni had been no help at all! I would have despaired indeed without my Americans-from-home friends.

The people at the consulate were lovely. They issued me with a temporary/ emergency passport and the caveat that the UK might not let me back into the country. At this point I didn't care! I just wanted to get home!

After I had my temporary passport (in record time as well - under an hour!) I felt so relieved, and Rachel and I did a bit of celebrating - ie brunch and sight seeing - in Edinburgh.

Even though we ate brunch, we still got pudding - this is a sticky toffee pudding! Yum!

This is the Old Calton Cemetery

A unique statue of Abraham Lincoln, dedicated to the memory of Scottish-American soldiers! 

Sort-of opposite Old Calton Cemetery is Calton Hill. There are some interesting buildings and structures up on the hill, and we went for a wee wander. The real reason I wanted to go there, however, was because it was used as a filming location for the BBC "North & South" that came out a few years ago.

On Calton Hill.

Luckily I had a hat on, so I felt pretty old-fashioned, just like Margaret Hale in "North & South".

I apologise for the crummy quality of this photo, but it's the best I could find. This is a scene from the film. They've added in the angel and the headstones, but that is the same hill! 
We also took a tour down Mary King's Close, which was thrilling. Unfortunately they didn't allow photography, but here is another (open) close. Edinburgh is full of them. 

Rachel & I passed this statue. We think that rubbing the toe brings good luck!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Halloween Season: parties, Linlithgow, etc.!

I often say that Halloween and Christmas vie for the number one spot in my heart. I do love Christmas, especially the old carols, and candles and (non-alcoholic) lambs wool, cider and eggnogg. However, I think I make more of a fuss over Halloween. And it's no secret that I love skeletons and ghost stories and things that are a bit macabre. I'll try to pare down all my revelling to one post, and I hope it gives you a flavour of the lovely Halloween I had this year.

First of all, I received many gifts, some of which I'll picture below:

My dear friend Stacey gave me the cookie cutters above, and my mother sent me the ones in the box. Lovely!

My talented friend Martha embroidered this Nosferatu ornament for me! AMAZING!

Of course, Halloween wouldn't be Halloween without Patsy's annual Halloween party that she has at the church for her girls and their friends. I think this year Patsy really outdid herself! 

Chocolate covered Oreos and cake pops.

Gorgeous cupcakes topped with white chocolate stars & edible glitter!

Owl bedecked cupcakes. Stunning! 

A feast of Halloween sweets!

Patsy & myself.

Rachel & myself.

On the same day as Patsy's party, Rachel, Jessica Houskeeper & I went to the "Ghosty Linlithgow" tour (as I like to call it). Officially it's called "Fright Night". It has become a tradition: this is the third year in a row that Rachel & I have gone (always accompanied by different people).

This year it was a little different. The bell-ringer guide was different (I think he was, in any case!) - his makeup was much better, and his face looked skeletal, instead of just white. They had a different woman playing Agnes the witch. She was older, blonde (well, a blonde wig in any case!), and more voluptuous and witch-like. Which in some ways was better, but I think I prefer the other girl, who was more vulnerable, and made the sad history of witch-mongering easier to realise.

Fright Night at Linlithgow! 

Rachel & Jessica

Rachel & myself.

The new witch! 

The lighting is very atmospheric!

This is NOT Linlithgow, but a vintage shop on Great Western Road. But I really liked their spooky window display. 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Bute: part three

Going back to Kilchattan from St Blane's was the biggest part of the journey, though the shortest. The signposts are there, but they are few and far between, and I didn't follow one of them correctly and so got lost. Also, I was lured by a sinister copse of pine trees that I thought was a forrest I had to walk through (on my directions). I crawled under electric fences, climbed over locked gates, and squelched into frighteningly deep gravel that I didn't realise I would sink in. It was a bit frightening. But after getting lost I retraced my steps and got back to Kilchattan safe and sound more or less. 

There was a woman on the bus who asked if I was the girl who went out to St Blane's. She must have talked with the bus driver who took me out to Kilchattan. I got a warm feeling at her words, as though the whole island was looking out for me. 

A signpost!

Gorgeous view - sorry my shadow is in the pic.

My muddy boots!