Sunday, 29 June 2008

back to the botanics

After a nap jack and I went back to 'the botanics' as the locals call them. Jack made some more friends (a little girl called Corinne who wanted to free range like Jack but wasn't allowed) and walked and walked and walked and chased some squirrels and walked some more.

National Museum Of Scotland (hello dolly)

We were going to go to another art gallery today, modern art. The gallery was supposed to be in Charlotte's Square. We walked around the square and couldn't really see it. There were tourist buses, but they were for the Georgian House, something else entirely.We looked up the street number and located the building and I climbed the steps and peered through the window. Nothing. I tried turning the big brass door handle (I must've been very keen) and then I decided to peer through the brass mail slot (I don't know why) it creaked and fell sideways off one of its hinges. I giggled nervously and ran back down the stairs and down the street. It just seemed like the right thing to do. Or should I say the best thing to do. I'm sure as I stood some distance away describing what had happened to S, that I heard the sound of a mail slot being restored to its rightful position.So the gallery was off the agenda. I suggested the museum and so we set off around the side of the castle, through Grassmarket (which is a great area full of pubs and restaurants and a lovely wool shop: ) up past Greyfriars Bobby (S was well impressed) and past the cafe where JK wrote Harry and finally to the museum.
The Museum was fantastic. They had musicians playing jazz and classical music and because of the design of the building you could hear it as you walked around. There were a lot of objects to do with Scotland's rather tumultuous history. And some quotes on the wall from something called the Oath of Arbroath (which is where Big Lou is from).We saw some lovely accessories for witches and a sort of scottish guillotine called a maiden. I got chatting to a guard (another friendly Scot) who told me that Dolly the sheep, who I thought was in another museum closed for renovation, was actually in the building so we went looking for Dolly. Is it just me or did she not live very long?Anyway we found dolly in this great room with all these interactive displays and the Watt steam engine (which is enormous). It was a great room and I think maybe the adults were having more fun that the kids.After that we went to look at the Viking and Roman displays. In amongst them there were sculptures by Andy Goldsworthy ( I almost sat on one called 'hearth') which I found just as interesting as the exhibits. Andy does amazing sculptures using natural materials. preferred the game of peekaboo that we played. In one section they had a kids area where kids could dress up as Romans or Vikings and they even had chain mail but it didn't fit me.
Finally we looked at the top floor which was about Scotland and the Empire and Industry (phew). Also very good. I saw a loom for making tartan and more steam engine thingummies. And again more cool stuff for kids. In the emigration section they had forms for the kids to fill out about what they'd take and what they'd miss if they had to leave home. Some of the answers were funny. I'm still not sure about the chicken.
We walked back towards the royal mile, with me stopping for a felafel. The man asked if I was Australian then asked if I wanted chilli sauce. What's with that? Normally I actually don't mind a touch of chilli but I said no just to throw him. We decided that it was time to go back to the apartment when we saw an Australian busker doing whip demonstrations on the royal mile. Talk about cultural exchange!

Saturday in Edinburgh

On Saturday the three of us went to the National gallery (S wanted to see the Skating Reverend and who could blame him?). It was quite sunny and we couldn't help noticing how busy the streets were. So what do the good people of Edinburgh do on a weekend. Book reading? gallery opening? philosophy lecture? Some may but it seemed most of them were shopping and with a zeal that was impressive. I believe the summer sales are on and that is why we saw people struggling under the weight of their purchases. After the gallery and a trip to the park (and some fish and chips) I went to investigate and Jack and S went back to the flat for a nap. I had a look at Jenners, which is the oldest department store in Edinburgh and also features occasionally in 44 Scotland Street (Sasha Todd and her daughter Lizzie go shopping there before the rather poorly attended Edinburgh Conservatives' Ball).
It was madness, especially in the shoe department. Husbands who weren't lucky enough to score the few husband chairs stood grim faced and forlorn as their wives queued and queued and queued. I went to the top floor and then passed them on my way back down and the wives were still queueing and the men were still waiting.
I had a look at Hamleys toy store in the basement but left after I was caught with my hand in a pool trying to get a bath squid to go. Well, it had tentacles and it looked cute and I wanted to see it in action. I sought refuge in the M & S food hall and bought some lovely fresh pasta for our dinner.
I saw some interesting sights but no longer had my camera. People (men) dressed as superheroes on a pub crawl, people dressed as vegetables protesting about packaging at Sainsburys (they were wrapped in plastic) and I saw two African drummers jamming with a bagpipe player. I''m not a big fan of the bagpipes but they sounded really quite good with the drums. Jammin'
On Saturday night I thought I'd have a nice relaxing bath with a lush bath ball and face mask that I had purchased. Then the door opened and I was joined by the lovely, but not so relaxing Jack and his friends octomopus and ducky. I guess I'm lucky the dinosaurs didn't come too. Then S came in with the camera.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

News from Home

My beautiful Sydney nieces have been attending a lot of literary functions lately. And the best kind, the ones with pain au chocolat (for the Nicholas event) or the latest one where they got to meet Tashi. Lucky things!

the eejits

To my delight the other day I found some Scots versions of Roald Dahl books. There was a version of Fantastic Mr Fox and also the Idiots called the eejits. I fond an extract on the Waterstone's website.
The Gless Ee. Ye can play hunners o tricks wi a gless ee because ye can tak it oot and pap it back in again ony time ye like. Ye can bet yer life Mrs Eejit kent aw the tricks. Wan mornin she took oot her gless ee and drapped it intae Mr Eejit's joog o ginger when he wisnae lookin. Mr Eejit sat there slowly sookin his juice. The faem made a white ring on the hairs aroond his mooth. He dichted the white faem ontae his sark sleeve and dichted his sark sleeve and dichted his sark sleeve on his breeks. 'Ye're up tae nae guid,' Mrs Eejit said, keepin her back tae him sae he widnae see she had taen her gless ee oot. 'Whenever you haud yer wheesht like that, I ken fine weel that ye're up tae nae guid.' Mrs Eejit wis richt. Mr Eejit wis schemin awa like billy-o. He wis tryin tae think up a honkin trick he could play on his wife the day.
I think it helps if you read it out loud. The very clever man that translated Dahl's books has also written some great books for Preschoolers. I had a chuckle or I should say hoot as I read them.

Where's Katie's moose? There it is noo. Keek-a-boo! See that wee moose Runnin roon the hoose. Where's Katie's bear? There it is noo. Keek-a-boo! See that puir bear Doon there on the flair. "Katie's Moose"
Each page shows Katie looking for the Dug, the Pig, the Bear, the Craw, the Coo and of course the wee Moose.
I'm sorely tempted to get one for Jack and Lily and Scarlett but wonder about the affect on their accents!

New friends

Yesterday Jack and I opted for a quiet day. No galleries or bus tours or pushing prams up hills. We headed to the botanic gardens which are only a couple of blocks from where we are staying for some dog free free ranging. There are some lovely gardens in town but they are fenced and only for the residents that live around them. I know this because I asked a parking inspector if I could get in to the ones on Queen Street and he said, "No Hen, you canna go in."
The fact that he called me hen wasn't disturbing. I thought it was sweet. It's like when people here call Jack a sweet, wee laddie. If I said it I'd sound like a right eejit, but not the lovely Scots. So Jack and I walked to the gardens and they were indeed very fine. As we were walking along, for Jack to his delight had been liberated from his pram, Jack was going up to people and saying hello. We ended up meeting a lovely family: Adam who is two and a half, his Dad Chris and his great Auntie Maureen, who I think goes by the nickname of Momo. Adam had a new ball and was determined that Jack was not getting his hands on it. Chris and Momo would say, "Give Jack the ball," and he would answer in a very definite way, "No!"
It became a bit of a game with him running away from Jack and Jack chasing him and the ball. In the midst of all this chasing they managed to clamber over a fossilised tree that had big signs on it saying do not climb on this tree. Whoops.Maureen produced food from her magical bag to feed not only herself and Chris and Adam but also Jack who was shameless and very taken with the straw in his juice. Lunch being done with, two rackets and a ball were produced from the bag and with Adam distracted, Jack was able to get his hands on the ball and he didn't want to let it go.We had a lovely time, afterwards strolling through some more of the gardens till we had to leave to take Jack back to the apartment for his nap (and he was tired). It was so nice to meet such a warm, generous family and join in their picnic fun.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

...Britannia rules the waves (not anymore!)

Yesterday afternoon we went to see the Royal Yacht Britannia. S had a hankering to do so and who was I to argue. We decided to catch the bus there as the stop is right outside our front door. Now in Scotland they have a funny rule for buses. There is a special area at the front for prams (aka pushchairs aka buggies) but only one unfolded buggy at a time. When we were about to hop on a woman got off with her unfolded buggy so we could get on.We sat down feeling pleased with ourselves and ready to enjoy our trip. However at the next stop another woman got on with a buggy. She was told
that she had to fold it, but as her baby was asleep and she had shopping in what I call the shoplifting basket that didn't seem fair. We offered to fold ours, S liberated Jack (much to his delight) and all I had to do was fold the buggy. Except that the basket was full of gumboots, raincoats, water bottles and balls. It's hard to fold a buggy when holding these things and being watched by a busful of people. I just needed a bit of room to fold it and I'd be right, but there was an old guy with a wheely bag and a cane who every time I moved to the left, he moved to the left, I moved to the right, he moved to the right. I just wanted him to back the truck up, as S would say, to give me some room but no dice. So I decided to swap places with the other pram woman but then EZ Company Ernie (who is attached to the side of Jack's pram) got wedged in the wheels of the other pram so it looked like we were doing some kind of weird, interpretive dance. All this while everyone was watching and the bus was going nowhere. Then these two bogan women decided to help yelling, "why don't you just fold the buggy?Just fold the buggy?!"
I think those women must have been visiting from Glasgow. I'm not sure if they were talking to me or the other woman but after she said she couldn't and they gave her a blast ("Woz I talkin' to yoooo?") I guess maybe they were talking to me. Eventually I struggled to my seat with a half folded buggy and a handful of wet weather gear and sat down and the bus proceeded.The rest of the ride was spent in silence, though I did see some interesting pubs and places down by the water.
The first thing I noticed when we got off the bus was that RY Britannia is housed at a shopping mall. We walked through the centre (though I did note there is a 'big space' like soft play centre there) to the Britannia entrance. We strolled through the exhibit (lots of photos of the Cabbage and Di though not together) and then picked up our audio tours and hopped aboard. It was interesting.We learnt that when Liz travelled she brought along 5 tonnes of luggage, which made me feel immeasurably better. We also learnt that on board no yelling was allowed (by the crew anyway) and so the sailors all had a system of hand signals to communicate. There were also strict rules about what to do if they came upon a royal while they were swabbing the decks or something similar - they had to stand still like a statue and avert their eyes. They were not allowed to wear hats as they performed these duties so no royals would have to acknowledge their presence by saluting (ie. can't salute without a hat). There was a great sunroom with some groovy cane furniture that Phil picked up somewhere on their travels and a concealed bar and stereo (it was behind the charts on the wall). There was also a great picture with a caption about loading supplies for a voyage with the Queen Mum but all I could see were crates of Gordon's gin. And so to the royal bedchambers. The portholes were higher than anywhere else on the ship to stop people peeking. We saw HRH Cabbage's bedroom with a very small single bed and Philip's bedroom (same bed but more masculine colour scheme). The bedrooms did face each other so I imagine they could've lain in bed and waved to each other if they felt like it. There was a double bed in the 'honeymoon suite' that Charles had installed and as it was also used for Fergie and Andy's honeymoon I must say that 's not much of a recommendation .
We travelled down through the ship and saw the Dining room and the drawing room (very nice) and then down once more to to the less commodious quarters for the crew. Apparently they used to play a simply HILARIOUS game called wombat tennis which consisted of throwing a toy wombat (kindly donated by a lady in waiting but not for this purpose) into a ceiling fan. Such larks.And further down through the ship, past the galleys (which are now used for commercial functions and for making fudge which you can buy there) to the laundry (huge - my mum would love it). Most of the staff had to change their uniforms up to six times a day so you can imagine how much washing was generated. But none of the crew's washing was allowed to be washed at the same time as the royal washing. Apparently once they turned the Queen's smalls blue. oops. She was not amused.
And then to the engine room which was very shiny. We found it interesting but I can't say that Jack felt the same.On our bus back it turned out that our driver had served aboard the Britannia as a royal navy marine and said that she is not what she was. Gone are the ebony tables and so many other amazing bits and pieces. Oh well. And though there were lots of photos of Diana (and I mean lots) there were no photos of Camilla till we got to the gift shop and then there she was alongside the corgis. But then maybe the only time she went aboard the Britannia was in Charles' head.