The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Housemates and Other Stuff

When I moved into the house Ian was the only other permanent occupant. The other two bedrooms kind of have revolving doors. We had Kenny's Uncle Chris, from Dumbarton, in one for about a week. Kevin has stayed a night or two on a couple of occasions when he's up from Glasgow to play the pubs in Inverness. And Craig, a North Sea fisherman, stayed one night. These guys are all our friends and Ian and I are happy to see them come. We have laughed about not wanting Kenny to fill the other two rooms on a permanent basis. We like it the way it is. We live here and our friends come to visit. Ian and I get along great and we hang out together a lot. But yesterday the Germans arrived! LOL! Toby and Chris are a couple of forestry students who are here for a one semester exchange program. We all had coffee together in the kitchen this morning and they seem very nice. So we have a full house for a couple of months now. All I can say is everybody better pull their own weight in the housekeeping department. I'm NOT cleaning up after 3 guys! Ian is really good about it and one of the new guys did the dishes before they left this morning so I think we'll be OK.

I broke my glasses on Thursday! I took them to 4 different optical shops and everybody said the same thing. They can't be fixed. So I had to have an eye exam (since I don't have my prescription with me) and order new glasses. The bad news is that it's going to take a week to get them so I'm back into my stupid little readers til then. The good news is that I got 2 pair for about half the cost of my last pair.

I think I want to eventually buy a little car but not until I get used to the traffic. When I ride in a car with someone it is very strange to sit in the left front seat without a steering wheel in front of me and it's still a little weird to travel down the left side of the road but what really freaks me out are right turns! I have that immediate feeling that we are cutting someone off in the right lane to make a right turn from the left lane! And then we don't turn into the right lane of the cross street. We go over the left side of the street! Again my instincts try to tell me that we are heading into oncoming traffic! This happens to me time and time again and it's really disorienting for just those few seconds. So until I get used to the wrong, uh I mean the left, side of the road, I think it's better if I just ride with friends or take the bus! Another very strange thing is that it's OK to park on the side of the street against the flow of traffic. Imagine crossing over the oncoming lane to pull up to the curb and park. Another reason for me NOT to get behind the wheel yet!

I had a two day orientation at the college this past week. There are about 15 of us in the History Program at the Inverness campus and I was pleased to see that we are a mixture of men and women, some just kids and others "mature" adults. Those of us who are first year students will have another orientation next week at the North Highlands campus in Dornoch (about an hour and a half north of Inverness). We'll meet the history instructors and all the other first year history students from the other UHI campuses from around the Highlands and Islands as well as get a more intensive introduction to the UHI history dept. which is based at the North Highlands campus. UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands) is putting us up at the Dornoch Hotel for 3 days. I had planned to take the bus to Dornoch but one of the other students, a woman just a bit younger than me, offered to give me a ride up and back. We'll leave Inverness on Monday morning and return on Wednesday afternoon. And then classes will finally begin the following Monday. I have my first class on that Tuesday! At last!!!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My First Birthday In The Highlands

I had a fabulous birthday yesterday! Ian, my new housemate, took me for a cruise on Loch Ness in the afternoon. The loch is so beautiful and Ian has quickly become a very good friend. Then it was off to the Gellions to celebrate with more friends and bathe in the sounds of Schiehallion! Sandra, Laura and Hazel surprised me with flowers and a card and then Cath and Gringo arrived bearing another birthday card, a lovely bottle of Australian wine and a can of Guinness (which made me laugh). The evening flowed with Happy Birthday wishes from everyone and I did my best to keep up with all the birthday drinks that came my way! At the height of the evening's celebrations Kenny led the crowded pub in a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" after which he sang "Summer Walkers" for me. I love all the music that the band does but this song is very special to me. I've not heard Kenny sing it live since I got here and had asked him about a week and a half ago if he would sing it for my birthday. I wasn't sure if he would remember so I sent him a text yesterday afternoon to remind him and got one back saying he was just then rehearsing it for me. It was amazing! For almost 5 minutes the rest of the world just kind of disappeared as I stood about six feet away, in the middle of the dance floor, and lost myself in the haunting lyrics of the song and the sheer power and grace of Kenny's voice. When he finished I stepped up, put my hand on one of his cheeks, kissed the other one and whispered thank you. Then it was back to the rowdy celebrations!

My girls had been concerned about me spending my birthday alone in a new town. But that was before I arrived here and met all these wonderful people. I am amazed at how quickly I found my niche in this little corner of heaven. I feel so at home here and can't imagine ever living anywhere else. I went walking last Sunday with Sandra and Marie down the Caledonia Canal, which runs parallel to the River Ness. I was visually drinking in the scenery and felt my soul coming alive again after being dormant for what has seemed like a very long time. To the people who have grown up here The Highlands are just "home" but as a new immigrant I see things through a different lens. I look forward to the time when my life in Inverness becomes routine but I don't think I'll ever lose the feeling of wonder that, through all my travels, The Fates have led me to this beautiful place. I am come home.....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Man In The Moon

One of my favorites...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Scottish Tourism, Language, and Sport

Kenny just showed me this video and I laughed till I cried....

And here's another one. The beginning is so funny to me because it sounds just like Kenny. I had to smack him and say "See, it's not just me!" He keeps telling me I have to learn to speak Scottish. Hell, I have to learn to understand it first!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm Here...At Last!

I made it! That wild scheme I came up with two years ago is finally a reality. Nikki and I landed at Edinburgh Airport last Friday. From the airport we had to take a bus to the the train station to catch our train to Inverness. And to my surprise, who should be waiting at the Edinburgh train station for us? SHAUNA! She had flown in from India the night before to surprise me. Nikki was in on it so she knew to look for her sister when we got to the station. They had been planning this for a couple of weeks. Nik had even been in touch with the B&B in Inverness to let them know that there would be three of us but that it was a surprise to me.

I was a very happy mom as we all boarded the train for Inverness. I think my face was glued to the window for the entire three and a half hour ride. We checked into our B&B and then went in search of dinner. We found a really good restaurant in the town center called The Mustardseed. After dinner we went for a nice long walk along the River Ness and across to the little island in the middle of the river.

On Saturday we went out the the Culloden Battlefield. The National Trust for Scotland built a new Visitor's Center last year and the new exhibition on the events leading up to the battle, the battle itself, and the aftermath of the battle is much improved over the old one. We spent several hours there which concluded with a walk around the battlefield itself. Then it was back into town to head over to the pub to see Schiehallion play. Fabuluous! They played from 5pm-8pm at The Gellions and then from 9:30pm-12:30am at Hotanannys. We had a great time. I've played Schiehallion's CD so much since it came out and devoured all the YouTube videos but there is nothing like hearing the music live. Kenny has such an amazing voice and the kind of music he sings just feeds my soul. We met all the "regulars" and they welcomed me to Inverness with such genuine enthusiasm. Kenny offered to show me around after the girls left. On Sunday the girls and I took a historical tour of Inverness before landing at Finlay's (another pub!) to catch the band again. Knowing that Nikki and Shauna were leaving the next morning, Laura (one of the "regulars"), told the girls not to worry about their mom, that they would take good care of me!

The next morning Kenny picked me up and we went out to the Black Isle to watch the dolphins. They come in each day about noon to feed on the salmon. The dolphins must take Mondays off 'cause they didn't show that day but we had a lovely time anyway, sitting by the water, talking and watching the seals. After a few hours we drove back into town to look at one of Kenny's houses that he rents out on a shared basis. The house has 4 bedrooms but only one was occupied. I had been set on getting a single apartment but I figured it wouldn't hurt to look at what Kenny had to rent. The house is in a nice neighborhood called Hilton and there is a bustop just right around the corner. I decided to take it and Kenny came by the B&B for me and my suitcases yesterday, which we dropped off at the house before going out to lunch. My housemate is a really nice guy named Ian. We've had a few friendly conversations and he seems very laid back so I think it's going to work out fine. Kenny's uncle is up from Dumbarton for a week or so so there are actually 3 of us in the house at the moment.

I love Inverness. It's small enough that you really can't get too lost but it's a very lively town with a population of about 72,000 (minus all the tourists!). There is plenty of shopping and the pubs are always in full swing. Not to mention that it is in the heart of The Highlands. So much to see and do!

For someone who just landed I sure don't feel like a lone stranger in town. Between spending time with Kenny on Monday and Tuesday, having Ian and Chris at the house, and getting to know the regular Schiehallion crowd at the pubs I certainly haven't been lonely! It's off to the Gellions again tonight!

I have died and gone to heaven in the Scottish Highlands!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Full Circle In Germany

When I arrived in Germany 10 months ago I stayed with Nikki and Bert for a couple of months until I moved into my apartment. Now, at the end of my stay, I'm back. The shipping company picked up all my boxes in Mannheim last Thursday. I closed the door to my cute little "hobbitty" apt one last time and came back to Ludwigshafen. When I got here I looked at Nikki, sighed, and said, "Well, I'm homeless again." We both laughed because all that means is that the dream is finally at hand.

Bert had to go to Munich for work on Thursday and won't be home until tomorrow morning and Nikki doesn't work on Fridays so we have had a very nice long mother-daughter weekend, just the two of us hanging out. We ran some weekend errands on Friday and on Saturday we went to the farmers market, did some cleaning and then went for a long walk in Luisenpark. Yesterday we both slept late and then I went to the park to get in a few miles while Nikki did some lesson planning in advance of being gone next weekend. When I came home we had a lovely dinner on the balcony and then watched movies.

I have so enjoyed this last year in Germany. The experience has been very different from the first time I lived here. Not better or worse, just different. The best part, though, has been being so close to Nikki. That also means that the worst part about leaving will be leaving Nikki. I'm so excited about finally moving to Scotland and she shares that excitement with me but we are both so aware that it means another good-bye. I'm glad she's going with me for a few days when I leave. We're just going to play when we get to Inverness next weekend. We'll go to the pub a couple of times to see Scheihallion play, take a trip out to Culloden, walk along the river Ness and just do some poking around town. Then she'll fly back to Germany on Monday.

I will miss my little Pickle.