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Picture of the Day: Arbroath Abbey Gate Jan. 22nd, 2010 @ 04:01 pm
So, time to start working on going through pictures and displaying some.

Today's photo: the gateway into Arbroath Abbey. Now in ruins, Arbroath Abbey was founded in the twelfth century by William the Lion, consecrated in memory of the English saint Thomas Becket, and fell into ruins after the sixteenth century. The buildings were raided for stone for the building of the town.

The Abbey was the site of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, and was where the Stone of Destiny turned up in 1951 after it was stolen from Westminster Abbey.



Travel Video 1: Horse vs Car (Result: Draw) Oct. 30th, 2009 @ 12:14 pm
So, yesterday I went to the Highland Wildlife Sanctuary near Aviemore. I saw Mercedes the Polar Bear, but as it turns out it wasn't the most interesting thing on the trip. I have some awesome video of Amur tigers (fka Siberian Tigers) I still need to edit and format to smaller size, but for now, have this video of a horse that decided to get grumpy with my car for no apparent reason. (I'm just pleased I had my video camera on it at the time.)


Current Music: Radio 4
Current Location: Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland


Booyah! Oct. 28th, 2009 @ 01:49 pm
I've found the nearest place where I can get USB broadband reception!

A mere fifteen miles from where I'm currently staying, in the town of Inverurie, I HAVE INTERNETS!!!

Today I walked around the gardens and loch of Fyvie Castle, because we actually had clear weather for a change. In a few days I shall be heading out of Scotland, going through England and crossing to France.

Some notes from yesterday:

Here in eastern Aberdeenshire, we're into the second straight week of rain.

Apparently, this is a thing unheard-of in this part of Scotland, and it's a terrible frustration for many, including many of my kinfolk; they can't lift the harvest in this weather. As well as frustrated, they're bored; they can't do their work, and they can't do other things that might feel productive, like fishing, because the river is running six feet higher than usual.

And there's been flooding, not too far away, which drowned a farmer. I'm rather thankful my kinfolk are up in the Grampians, where the hills keep them safe from floods.

Yesterday I went into Aberdeen, and had a rather startling moment on the road that approaches the city. I drove over a bridge and saw a sign for the River Ythan. Glancing to the side, I saw a river several metres wide that snaked off into the distance.

My great-aunt Hilda tells me that there's a lot of wildlife at the estuary at the mouth of the Ythan, too.

The thing is, near here there's a tiny sign that points up a track. The sign says: "Wells o' Ythan". The source of the Ythan is away up that track, and is an old little well, from which runs a tiny little stream.

It's amazing to think that this is the source of a real and mighty river.
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Driving the Highlands and the Isle of Skye (Photo Post) Oct. 24th, 2009 @ 06:22 pm
So, the Highlands to the west are really quite phenomenally beautiful.



More pictures below. )

A few more pictures are in the set here.

Interesting thing: they have two of the dudes from Dragon's Den on the Top Gear I'm watching. One of them, Peter Jones, has taken an interesting approach to being tremendously rich and still wanting his children to make something of their lives: A trust fund, rather than direct inheritance, which pays them an amount equal to their earnings that year.

Unless they do something worthy but underpaid, like nursing, in which case it triples or quadruples their income.

I don't know anything else about this guy to speak of, but I think he's probably a better parent than a lot of mega-rich folk.

He also apparently managed to impress the Stig as a driver.

Meanwhile - and this sort of thing is why I watch Top Gear occasionally - they're setting up a hunt - as in, a foxhunt - wherein the prey is Jeremy Clarkson driving a small off-road car.

Oh world... Oct. 24th, 2009 @ 09:47 am
A long time ago, I reached a conclusion about a general category of "Thing that matter to people, which I do not personally understand". It amounts to this: If they're not hurting anyone, then fine.

This is why my initial attitude towards transfolk, when I encountered the concept, amounted to: "Huh. Okay."

Of course, my attitude towards the first trans person I ever met was wide-eyed stuttering, but that was because I had an overwhelming crush on her and sometimes it takes me that way. It's her fault for being both hot and a giant geek.

I don't understand people who don't have that attitude, or who deliberately construct hurt where none exists.

This is why I was rather thoroughly delighted by this story wherein the answer to the question of who two cross-dressing men are hurting is: "Those guys, and they totally deserve it.

Summary: Two blokes deciding to be a bit silly for a stag night drag up. This is the minidress and pink wig version of drag - drag as silly costume.

Two drunkards decide to attack them.

This does not end well for them, because the dragged-up celebrants they're attacking are, in fact, professional cage fighters on a night out.

The cage fighters won.

It took me longer to type that sentence than it took the cage fighters to win.

This morning I woke up, and was kept awake by what turned out to be approximately eight people, across three generations of a family, chatting directly outside my door.

Eventually I got up, opend the door, and squinted out at them.

"Hi."
"Are we waking you up, are we?"
"Yeah."
"Sorry. We're just going out. Tit for tat, isn't it?"
"Pardon?"
"Tit for tat, isn't it?"
"Is it?"
"No."

Thank you for playing, passive-aggressive woman from Edinburgh, come again.

I was not knowingly loud last night coming in. Other people were coming and going quite a lot; part of why I stayed up much later than I intended is that other people were up late. It was Friday night, people seemed to be coming and going for that reason.

(Side-note: I was mildly disconcerted by all the people who seemed to be pubbing and clubbing last night as I passed through Inverness, Nairn and Elgin; finally I remembered that on the previous two Friday nights I've spent in Britain, for one I was at home with my uncle, aunt and cousins in a tiny village in Wiltshire, for the other I was at home with my great-uncle, great-aunt, and second cousin on a farm in Aberdeenshire. Neither is really a place to see the nightlife.)

Anyway, the thing about dealing with noisy people in places like B&Bs is this: any indication, however slight, that someone is making noise that's bothering people will generally get them to shut up. People are usually just unaware of it.

Meanwhile, the one staff person I've encountered this morning was terribly nice - provided me with milk for my cereal (I fetched my own cereal from my car, because I had some GF rice flakes in there) and was cheerful about me borrowing a spoon from the breakfast room to go back to my room to munch. She offered me breakfast there, etc; I explained that I drove several hundred miles yetserday and I'm really really tired.

Right now I'm watching an old episode of The Saint of which, sadly, I missed the first five minutes. Roger Moore really was very swoony, although in the character of the Saint he seems a lot gayer than I remember him being in anything else I've ever seen him in.

Oh, but he has such sexy eyebrow work.

Even if Templar is stupid enough to leave his weapons lying around for them to be used against him.

Today, my only sightseeing plan involves a tourist spot that has been taunting me. See, I've drivin the road between Elgin and Inverness six times now, and every time seen a sign pointing the way to a Pictish Fort. I wan't to go see it, dammit.

Other than that, I shall go through my Highland photos and try to catch up a little on sleep.99

Scotland photos... Oct. 22nd, 2009 @ 07:06 pm
If you have time to kill and wish to look at photos, then here: 350 photos of Scotland, once they finish uploading.

They were batch-resized, so only one of them has actually been renamed (Macbeth's Hillock, because the name is part of what makes it interesting), and some of them haven't resized flawlessly, but if you want to see pictures of Scotland: go to.

At some point I'll be posting highlights and selections and more carefully resized versions of my favourites, but this is the whole lot, absent various photos that feature family things and the like.

Current Location: Inverness, Scotland


Greetings from Inverness Oct. 22nd, 2009 @ 06:00 pm
So, today I hit no wildlife with my car. I did spend a fair amount of time driving slowly while sheep got off the road in front of me, but that was okay with me - if not with the bloke in the car behind me, who leaned on his horn for literally over five minutes solid and flashed his lights at me a lot - especially when I stopped completely.

While a couple of dozen sheep that had been blocking the entire road cleared out of the way.

Unfortunately for him, my car is fairly soundproof and my mood was fairly mellow.

Speaking of my car: the Audi A4 has some seriously good stability when faced with major side-winds - it doesn't even wobble even when facing some very, very strong winds, as it did when driving along the northern coast of Caithness.

I toured around Caithness and Sutherland a bit - the main tourist attraction-type spot I went to was the Shin Falls, in Sutherland.

Tonight I got to my lodgings - a guest house overlooking the Ness in Inverness - before sunset, the better to have a restful, relaxing evening. (I'm kind of planning to watch Question Time tonight, despite the whole Nick Griffin thing, mind you.)

Later tonight: A photo post, since I've actually got some time this evening to do that.

Current Location: Inverness, Scotland
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Culloden Battlefield Oct. 20th, 2009 @ 09:29 am
OK, I have uploaded some more images from my trip to Culloden yesterday. I've even had leisure to annotate most of them on the Gallery page for my trip to Culloden. (Gradually expanding.)

I found it very difficult to sleep last night, and am really terribly tired, so I arranged to stay in this room another night, and am currently sitting in bed, watching Jeeves and Wooster on TV and doing this, in preparation for going back to sleep for a bit.

Later I shall go out, and do some sightseeing in Moray, but you know, I'm on holiday, and I didn't sleep well last night; sometimes one can allow oneself the luxury of a nice lie-in, especially if one has undertaken for the occupation of a lovely bed in an utterly lovely room in a Victorian mansion near the northern coast of Scotland.

Current Location: The Pines Guest House, Elgin, Moray, Scotland
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And where is Sami tonight? Oct. 19th, 2009 @ 09:36 pm
So, this afternoon I went and toured the battlefield at Culloden Moor, then headed back towards the delightful city of Elgin, in Moray. Stopped at Tesco's and finally got phone credit.

I attended the evening session of the Moray Camera Club. A photo competition was being judged by a man from Dundee, and I really enjoyed the pictures, but my lord the man has terrible judgement, I found it rather irksome.

It finished at 9pm, and everyone was gathering for tea and socialisation, but I went back to my car, and by the combined powers of the Accommodation Guide I picked up at the tourist info office, mobile broadband on laptop, and actually having a phone with which to call places, poked around until I found a nice place to stay.

One place I called that had no rooms, the woman was trying to think of somewhere that would. She came up with the Premier Inn.

"That's my fallback option."
"Yes, it is a bit of a fallback place, isn't it?"

The Premier Inn is basically a motel chain. I stayed at one in Merseyside; it was nice enough, clean and pleasant and all that, but it's not at all interesting.

One night in the Premier Inn at Merseyside cost me fifty pounds.

Tonight, for fifty pounds, I'm staying at a guest house. For that fifty pounds, I'm staying in an utterly lovely room in an old Victorian mansion, with beautiful, beautiful furniture, including a king-sized wooden four-poster bed. Instead of scrabbling for power points, I've plugged my laptop into the powerboard - but there's four other free power points I can see from where I'm sitting. There are fixings for tea and coffee. There's a lovely gilt mirror.

Oh, and a full breakfast is included, and there's wifi internet access.

The sheet has some fun bits on the policy stuff. Like the Edinburgh Lodge, they have a towel system whereby you can indicate whether you want your towels replaced or are happy to reuse them; the Pines system is that you leave towels you want replaced on the floor.

They also recycle and use local or Fairtrade products where possible. And have a laundry service - clothes returned washed and dried.

This is why, seriously, finding a B&B is preferable to finding a motel. I have the nicest room in the house, apparently; it was the only room that was left.

I'm tired and I'm not sure of the limitations of this wifi - although it's the most reliable wifi I've ever seen - so you get only one picture just now. Taken at Culloden Moor:


Current Location: Elgin, Moray, Scotland
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y helo thar Oct. 19th, 2009 @ 02:43 pm
Still alive! Have left Aberdeenshire, am on my way to explore the highlands. Currently in the carpark of the Elgin town library - I stopped here because they have a tourist information office, so I could get all the booklets for Scotland, and am sitting in my car hunched sideways to use my laptop (resting on my gear lever and my backpack, in the passenger seat) to use the internet from MY OWN COMPUTER for the first time since last THURSDAY omg.

Mostly just collecting 55 e-mails and then I'll shut down and move on - except maybe not far. I was aiming to visit Culloden then spend the night in Inverness, but on my way out of the library, an older gent saw me taking photos of the (very cool) library building, and eagerly informed me that the camera club meets right here at 7:30 tonight. Come to visit! Have tea!

So I'm also deciding if I might. It could be interesting - you know, a chance to hang out with locals and meet people, or something. So I'm going to poke at the tourist guide for Moray and see if there's stuff nearer than Culloden to occupy my afternoon, then visit that.

A few days at my Ancestral Home has been powerfully good for my soul, but I appear to be losing the word "yes" from my vocabulary - my ex-South-African family had me back to saying "Ja:" instead (it's a longer vowel than the German word), and now I've picked up "aye".

According to my great-aunt Hilda, the more she gets to know me, the more like my grandmother I seem to her. This is, I assure you, one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

Current Mood: cheerful
Current Location: Elgin, Moray, Scotland


As you like it Oct. 14th, 2009 @ 01:22 pm
Today is a day for hygiene: I washed my hair and I'm doing my laundry.

I wanted to go to Edinburgh Castle today, but I really don't feel up to it; this is the problem when you start your holiday with a spoons deficit.

Anyway: I've put up a bunch of pictures from yesterday, when I drove up Arthur's Seat with Mary and then took a walk up the Royal Mile by myself. Album here.

Space constraints Oct. 12th, 2009 @ 09:26 pm
So, there are ways in which Australia is much, much better than the United Kingdom... and which the UK can't do anything about, that I can see.

Two things:

1) Australian roads are wider, straighter, better signposted, better lit, and have shoulders and emergency lanes and all those things.

2) Australian mobile phone coverage is vastly better, as is Australian radio coverage.

Listening to wide-coverage FM radio in Australia, I've never had the degree of signal cutouts I've experienced here. BBC Radio Scotland cuts out a lot driving around the streets of Edinburgh. And my wireless broadband only works here if it has line-of-sight to the window.

But they have all these old, tall buildings, this rugged terrain, and a lot less space in which to build roads and broadcast towers. So they're kind of stuck, I think.

Today's breakfast: gluten-free crumpets, with lemon curd. Delicious crumpets! From the "Livewell" line, bought at Sainsbury's, if anyone's interested. My tastebuds miss yesterday's delicious bacon and eggs at the B&B, but I suspect my arteries are relieved. Today's plan: Visiting with Mary, in a bit, and then I'm going out to explore Edinburgh!

There you go then... Oct. 12th, 2009 @ 02:44 pm
So, this morning I had a tasty breakfast at the B&B, then came over to Mary's retirement place. After we chatted a bit, Mary and I went to Sainsbury's, where we dropped off her recycling, then I did some quick grocery shopping while she waited in the cafe, then we had lunch, and came back.

I've shifted my stuff into the guest suite, and am finding I really just want to crash for the afternoon. I think it's the weekend of solid driving, following a very busy week since I arrived - I've been out and about and all over the place every day, really, so I'm due for a restful afternoon.

So tomorrow I shall go into Edinburgh more, I think - this afternoon I shall chill here, maybe do some laundry. I'm here until Thursday morning, then I'm going up to Aberdeenshire and my great-uncle and great-aunt and their family.

After that I'm off again, if I stick to my schedule, which I'm leaning back towards doing (I was struggling for a bit and considering not). Ferry from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Amsterdam, then another from Copenhagen to Oslo - but we'll see if I go through with the 2000km-each-way drive to the far north of Norway, or if I just go some of the way north and then turn south again.

I can easily enough go back across the Channel to make my dates in Normandy if I come back to Blighty early, after all; my cousins assure me that going to France is positively trivial. From southern England, France is easier than the North.

I am tired. I think this is not that odd.

Cricket House, Cricket St Thomas: The building and actor... Oct. 12th, 2009 @ 09:45 am
So, on both Friday and Saturday I went to Cricket House in Cricket St Thomas, in Somerset. On Friday it was on purpose, on Saturday it was to pick up my backpack, which I'd left outside the doors on Friday.



It will be familiar to anyone who has watched the TV series To The Manor Born.

Me at the front gates:



I went inside to collect my backpack, and discovered the memorable staircase where Audrey and Richard married, among other scenes:



Notes for fans of the show: The Old Lodge is also in Cricket St Thomas, but is much further from the Manor than I'd imagined.

The countryside around is utterly lovely, and they seem to keep many, many sheep in the area, but this isn't unusual in rural England, so far as I've seen - there's sheep everywhere. And cows, too, but there's a lot of sheep. (Bear in mind that I've spent most of my time so far in the Cotswolds.)

As for driving to Scotland: It's hard to make a call on whether Cumbria or Lancashire is more utterly lovely, as far as the view from the M6 goes. Scotland is beautiful, and in many respects superior to England as far as driving goes, because while the roads are still narrow and twisty and in places quite bumpy, they have actual signposts - even speed signs.

Having said that, Scotland also has warning signs about ice, which are faintly ominous as winter approaches.

This morning I need to repack my car a bit, to free up the passenger seat, and to arrange so I can actually use my cabin bag as an overnight bag as I intended. I've just offloaded and backed up all my photos so far.

It's morning in Scotland... Oct. 12th, 2009 @ 08:04 am
Hot water in my room still seems to be a bit odd, but the important point, right now, is that it's time for breakfast in this place that has GLUTEN-FREE BREAD even when you arrive an hour after reserving your room on a Sunday. The delight!

Today I am wearing my new wool jumper from the Edinburgh Woollen Mill. It is wonderfully snug and comfy, but I just discovered that wool is not necessarily stretchy, and therefore it is VITALLY IMPORTANT to take my glasses off BEFORE I try to pull it over my head.

Vitally.

Current Location: Edinburgh, Midlothian, United Kingdom
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Hello from Edinburgh Oct. 11th, 2009 @ 07:21 pm
(Another picture post will probably be soon.)

So, I made it to Edinburgh. As it turns out, my cousin thought I'd be arriving tomorrow, so plans have shuffled slightly again. I'm staying in Edinburgh until Thursday, then I'm going up to Aberdeenshire and my kinfolk there.

Why is it that Scotland has fewer TV channels than England does, and the channels themselves are different and crappier? At the moment I'm reduced to watching "The Genius of Charles Darwin" - i.e. a Richard Dawkins TV show. Richard Dawkins is a gigantic douchenozzle who, in those areas in which I agree with him, makes me really wish I didn't.

Meanwhile, happily, my room at the Edinburgh Lodge, which is a place that seems to be utterly lovely, from the charming staff, extremely nice room, excellent price, and proximity to the centre of Edinburgh and the Royal Mile to the response, in answer to my query regarding gluten-free food, that they have eggs, bacon, tomatoes, and gluten-free bread, also has enough power points for me to recharge the camera battery that went flat this evening, *and* plug in my laptop (which is low on battery after I used it to show my cousin Mary my photos I've taken so far) *and* plug in my video camera, to recharge its battery and offload video taken.

The high-capacity battery I bought my video camera was totally worth it - it sticks out of the back of the camera a little inelegantly due to the extra cells, but it means my camera can run on battery for hours.

The original battery is still somewhere in one of my bags as a backup, too.

... I just found the radiator control for my room. Excellent. In preparation for one's arrival, the staff here turn it on, and I suspect turned it on a touch higher than usual in deference to my Australian accent.

Speaking of accents, the woman at the desk has one that's utterly delightful - pure Edinburgh, with just a hint of Indian that gives it a richness beyond even that common to the Scots. (She's been here about thirty years, she said.)

I'm still tiring early, but I suspect that in the past couple of days that's fairly normal - yesterday I spent about eight hours driving, today I've spent about four and a half. I stopped at Gretna Green to stretch my legs - and found an Outlet Centre, where I bought two jackets and a jumper from the Edinburgh Wool Mill for 39 pounds, because I had a feeling that I needed more options for warm.

I appear to be losing weight with all my travelling (although my really crappy eating habits today may arrest that somewhat). In general terms this is fine, but it does mean I'm going to need to find a leatherworker soon, because I'm on the last notch of my belt and it's getting a bit loose, so I'll need to find someone who can punch me a new one.

Current Mood: tired
Current Location: Edinburgh, Midlothian, United Kingdom

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