Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!

Just a quick (slightly post-Christmas) post to say Happy Holidays to all, Peace on Earth, and to all a good night!
We've had a real Charlie Brown Christmas here - a tiny tree, a carol sing (at the church with the choir), and some quiet times. We've also had three brilliant dinners with new and excellent friends and many good phone chats with family. Its the first Christmas we've ever spent alone, and it was very different, but it was still a good one.
As the holidays continue to roll along with Boxing Day and the weekend coming up, we just want to wish you all a happy, safe and peaceful time this week, with lots of lovely snow, as we have had a very green Christmas and we hear that the entire country of Canada, for better or worse, is covered with a beautiful blanket of white. Sounds like classic Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Afeared of losing the faith of the lovely people who follow this blog, I have finally returned to make a post. I don't feel like I have a very valid excuse for my long absence. But I feel the need to come clean about a few things in an effort to explain my procrastination.

One - is fairly straightforward. The first three weeks after I arrived, I was allowing myself some time to unwind, "de-stress" from the move and explore my new surroundings. Then I started looking for a job, and this has eaten up time I used to spend in quiet cafes writing my blog.

Two - is somewhat unexpected and shameful. We finally got internet at home three weeks ago. One might think that this would make blogging so much easier, but the truth is when I used to have to go to a cafe for internet, I would usually have a time limit, even if it was just the amount of time I could manage to sit at a table with only a tea and not feel guilty about using the free wireless. Hence, there was no idle surfing, no You Tube visits, no Word Twist games on Facebook. I had to write my blogs in advance and post them, then answer and send emails, post pictures, all in under a couple of hours. Now... the procrasto possibilities are endless. Sad. But true.

Three - is a good thing. I have filled up my schedule with some activities that now involve more of my time. Besides the job search, which so far has been fruitless although there is much more searching to do, I have started volunteering once a week for the British Heart Foundation at their charity shop on Byres Road. There are lots of these "charity shops" here, which are second hand stores which accept donations like Goodwill or the Sally Ann, but they tend to be fairly small and are run by a variety of charities, like Oxfam (they have their own secondhand bookshop) or Cancer Research Society or one called Pets without Vets. There are plenty of others too and they seem to do a fairly good business.
I have also joined a choir at a lovely church down the street from us, that has a fantastic choir director and does really challenging music. Its been quite fun joining just before Christmas as we are doing all kinds of great arrangements of wonderful carols. Its a really amazing place to sing too. And there are lots of interesting, "artsy" people in the choir.
And I've been going to a knitting group too. It just meets once every two weeks and I missed one session, but the woman who set it up runs a great wool shop nearby and is from Toronto! We didn't get too much time to talk about that but she said to come by her shop sometime and have a chat. I'm clearly the novice of the group, but that's kind of nice. There's lots to work up to, and it has been revealed that some projects that I always thought would be really hard, like socks, turn out to be not very hard, but just might take me a while. There's also something really cool and earthy almost about sitting in a small circle of women, who are all knitting and just having a chat. No one seems to know anyone else really well, its just a friendly group.

Four - (gee, I didn't realize there were so many!) is not as good but is something I should talk about. Its just that sometimes I have gotten bogged down, shall we say. The weather is something that can be depressing. In fact today was the first day in 5 that we saw any sun, and boy did I feel a difference. Also, there are times its been hard not to get lonely. Aaron has been really busy writing a chapter of his paper, and so there were many times this past month where I spent quite a bit of time alone. It was better if I was out and about but times where my energy was drained and it was hard to leave the apartment even for a walk were isolating. And, I know I've talked about this before, but the combination of the gray days and the short days (I am going to truly be celebrating the Solstice this year) has made it hard to maintain momentum sometimes. In short, I have been struggling somewhat. But a very good and wise friend of mine said to me before I left that even though moving to Scotland was an amazing opportunity and I would have an incredible time, there would be times when it would be crap. It was really good for me to hear that because its true. And although I have many many moments here when I am in love with everything around me and still in awe of what views come into focus just as I'm walking down the street, sometimes it is crap. And not to admit that is just too much pressure.

Five - (last but not least) is something that definitely has affected me a lot over the past month and which I am very very happy about. To some of you this is not news and to others it is big news, but I am happy to finally reveal that I am pregnant and due in mid May. In fact I am at 18 weeks, or four months, and everything is going well so far. I have had a lot of digestive challenges as symptoms of the pregnancy but they are apparently well within the list of normal expectations, given that there is another being growing in your abdomen and stomach, intestines and all other inner organs have to make way as it grows. Also my energy levels have been drained, perhaps a combination of the pregnancy and the move. Some days are better than others, and its all still a mystery to me. But a glorious mystery. Belly pictures to come, I promise.

There! I've come clean about it all.
Now I can move on to the posts that I've been planning in my head for weeks and really catch up.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More pictures of Edinburgh

Pics: (from left to right and top to bottom)
  • View from Candlemaker Row , next to the Greyfriars Kirkyard
  • Victoria Street
  • the old infirmary (I think) along the Meadows walk
  • Middle Meadow Walk
  • view of the castle from and the Public gardens below
  • me on my way up to the castle
  • Arthur's Seat from Calton Hill (that fascinating white bug-like building is a new Earth Science Centre called Dynamic Earth)

My Reunion with Edinburgh

Aaron had a conference to go to at the University of Edinburgh on Thursday November 6 , so I went with him and had a day on my own in the city. For those of you who may not know, for years I have considered Edinburgh to be my favorite city in the world, and when Aaron asked me that evening, when we had met up for a pub dinner before catching our train back to Glasgow, if I had enjoyed my day, I had to say that it was like meeting up again with someone you love dearly that you haven’t seen for 12 years.

The last time I was in Edinburgh, I had been visiting my friend Glenn who was living there. That was in August of 1996. I remember clearly the day I left the city on the bus, pulling out of the station and being hit with a tragic feeling that I would never see the city again, or else not for a very long time. Because of this, I have to confess to superstitiously worrying that some catastrophe would befall Aaron and I before we got to the city for this long awaited visit. So as we were approaching Waverley Station and the train was chuffing slowly below the castle, I couldn’t quite believe that I was there. That feeling of dreaming or disbelief gradually melted over the course of the day, but it gave the first few hours a floaty kind of quality.

I walked with Aaron and his fellow students to the Uni so I’d know where to meet them later and then struck off on my own. I had a strong instinct to go to Calton Hill first. Edinburgh has numerous hills, where views of the city are both tremendous and helpful in orienting yourself. I had hoped I might be able to see the sea but the day proved just too misty to see very far. It wasn’t actually raining but everything was wet. By the time I climbed the hill I needed to sit for a minute and have a bite of ginger shortbread and Ribena for refreshment, and the only place to sit that wasn’t completely soaking was a cement block with some old stones around it. After my snack and rest, I wandered over to the side of the hill that looks out over the centre of the city and from where you can see the whole Royal Mile, the street that descends from the castle to Hollyrood Palace at the bottom of the ridge. Behind this is the large hill that juts out into the city known as Arthur’s Seat. It was completely invisible through the fog but as I watched, the mist lifted and by the time I was ready to leave it had been completely and somewhat magically revealed.

I was kind of bent on revisiting places I had been with Glenn, and the last place he lived while I was there was below Calton Hill in the New Town. So I walked down that way to look for a place to eat lunch and happened, by some freaky coincidence, to come across the Blue Moon cafe where Glenn told me he had worked some years after I visited him. The waiter there remembered him though it had been 7 years since he’d worked there. Small world.

The next few hours were filled with a series of wanderings through the New Town back toward Princes Street, through the public gardens and a long but rewarding walk up a switchback-y path up to the castle. By the time I got up there, I was so tired that I sat on a bench and almost fell asleep. I toyed with the idea of actually going into the castle since I have never actually done that, but I decided to save it for a time with Aaron or maybe other visitors.

Now I was at the top of the Royal Mile and back in the Old Town. It was roughly 2pm and it hadn’t actually rained yet, and given the sodden air that was astounding. Another reason I didn’t go into the castle this time: I wasn’t driven in by the rain. Instead I kept walking, passing through St. Giles cathedral, which in some form or other has stood on the Royal Mile for a thousand years, and then on to the Meadows or Middle Meadow Walk (I love that name), which has an avenue of trees that, when I had visited many springs ago, was exploding with pink blossoms, and now in the fall was turning yellow and rusty red. Along side the walk is a rambling old Victorian building (maybe older) which I’m fairly sure used to be an infirmary but is now being turned into condos. I couldn’t tell if they were planning to knock it down and build a big modern sterile looking glass building (like the picture on fence showed) or if they were going to keep some of the original architecture. It was the first time it occurred to me that even a place like Edinburgh, which clearly values its heritage buildings, is prey to developers, to allowing buildings to fall into disrepair perhaps past the stage of salvageability, and to ... change and evolution. I mean I know businesses come and go; most of the places I used to go to had been replaced, but the buildings were still there. Later in a bookshop, I came across a book called Lost Edinburgh, which acknowledged not only recent changes but buildings and sites that had been lost over the course of the past 800 years, with changes and developments. I think it is Sir Walter Raleigh’s grave that is now just a small yellow triangle in a parking lot beside St. Giles cathedral. I couldn’t even find that this time. But still there is a such a palpable sense in the city of a presence of history, a valued history that though it may also be exploited through a variety of spooky ghost tours (some of which are full of really interesting if horrific stories), it is in any case not forgotten. There are random plaques on sides of buildings marking the site of the last public execution or of witch trials or where Samuel Johnson ate dinner once, etc. I guess that’s why I love it so much. It feeds my imagination like nothing else. There are so many stories linked to every place. The cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book (where I confess I took shelter from the rain just because it was such a nice cafe, REALLY!) has windows that look over the graveyard where the Greyfriar’s Bobby is buried.

At the end of the day, I went back to the Geography building to meet Aaron. We were both fascinated by these small trees near the gate that were in bloom with delicate pink flowers that had a beautiful smell. IN BLOOM, people! Things are blooming here in November! Sorry but after the past winter I had in Ottawa I’m a bit blown away by the growing season here. But I digress.
We finished off our day in Edinburgh at a pub called The Advocate, which I was attracted to because during my very first visit to the city in 1993, my friend Christie was working at a pub by the same name. Where the pub was when she worked there was gone, the building had been demolished, so this one might have been a new incarnation of the same place. Nice pub, and great food. Fish and chips with real mushy peas, and a venison, juniper and gin sausage with Yorkshire Pud. A fine end to a fine day. The only thing that would have crowned it with glory is if I could have had just a wee half pint of cider and blackcurrent or one of the many fine, fine ales they have here. But we’ll get to that later...

Pics: Me on Calton Hill, View of Princes Street and the Castle from Calton Hill

More Edinburgh Pics to follow...

Sunday, November 16, 2008


The other night I was heading to the Co-op food store for some coffee and Branston pickle, and was waiting to cross the street at the crosswalk. There was an older gentleman to my right and a younger guy to my left who were waiting too. The younger guy looked at the stopped traffic to one side and decided to chance it rather than wait for the walk light, and narrowly missed being run down by a car turning left. The older gentleman turned to me, opening his eyes wide, and shook his head as one is wont to when witnessing something stupid. He said in his Scots accent: “You don’t do that. The drivers here are nutters. You wait for the little green man and THEN you cross with both eyes wide open!” When I said I agreed with him, he pulled his head back and said “Canadian?” No one ever guesses that on the first try. So, I said yes with some delighted surprise. “Where from?” he asked. I said that I had last lived in Ottawa and before that Toronto for 10 years. “Ah, out east.” he said, as we crossed the street with the little green man. “But I grew up out west actually. In Alberta.” He really pulled his head back then and said he had been educated in Alberta. He was wearing a greenish kilt, high socks and loafers. “Where?” I asked. “Edmonton. In the early sixties.” “That’s where I’m from! How did you like it?” He said it was okay but his favorite city was Regina. “Yes,” he said, “you know you can get a Friday night bus from Edmonton to a casino in Regina. Free! And they give you $100! You don’t even have to go to the casino, you just get a free ride to Regina!” He was chuckling, and by the time we got to the store I had completely forgotten what I went there to get. 

Picture: Great Western road looking East - the Co-op is on the left

Note:  due to technical errors "Edinburgh Reunion" will be posted next time...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Settling in

I've hardly drunk any of my tea, but my gingerbread is down to only tiny crumbs.
My daily routine involves some daily internet time either at the public library or at one of the many lovely cafes that offer Wi-Fi.  I have hijacked Aaron's Mac since he is usually using his computer at his communal office in the University.  Other than internet time, it also, at the moment, involves cooking, reading, being covered in cats, and a daily walk.  Sometimes its a long walk, to explore a new neighborhood, and sometimes its a short one to the cheese shop (very dangerous - so much CHEESE!!!) or to a comfort place like the Bolshie cafe or the Botanical Gardens.  
Tonight I am going to a play so I should end this quick.  Not to mention the fact that I think Bolshie is closing up shop for the night and will be kicking me out into the dark soon.

That's one to add to the list of 

Things I am still getting used to:
- it is completely dark by 4:45pm (and its only early November still...)

Note: the picture with this post is of a street just a few down to the east of our street in Glasgow.  

Next Post:  "My Reunion Day with Edinburgh"

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Reebs has landed

Arrival successful. 
Cats ok and quickly cleared through customs.  And though it often seemed insane to bring them, I am daily grateful that we did.  They are doing good things for my mental and emotional wellbeing, and are easing the transition to a very new home.  
Aaron has found us a truly wonderful flat here.  The area we live in is very lovely, very lively, full of nice cafes, shops and buildings.  Rows of sandstone flats are everywhere.  Our "lawn" is really all moss, and the trees are turning yellow and loosing their leaves.
I feel most alien here when I open my mouth to ask for a tea or introduce myself.  There are a million different accents heard here, but mine is not the most common, and its often mistaken for American.  After the Obama win, I don't even mind too much.  

5 things I love here:
- how people speak 
- the green, green moss in every nook and cranny
- the architecture and its age 
- the fact that people who don't work in theatre go to the theatre
- Ribena

5 things I'm still getting used to:
- being cold and wet most of the time
- looking right before crossing the street (I just look both ways all the time)
- being away from everyone I know (except Aaron, and being back with him is GREAT!)
- buying groceries everyday (cuz they're little)
- the ready availability of scones ( I have to watch it. Tempting....)