Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Day that Changed our Life

We are in the heart of autumn here. I have to say the weather has been beautiful. Many blue skies with puffy white clouds and the low-angled autumnal sun that you get in northern climes catching you in the side of the face. Also there's that crisp clear air that you can enjoy when you're bundled up, even if the tip of your nose gets cold.
Do I sound contented? Happy, even? I have to say, I am. I was told ages ago that it would take me about 6 months to a year to settle in and, though at the time that was not comforting, it was true, and I do feel settled now. And it's a good feeling.

Before I jump back in time to begin the first installment of "The great catch up on the summer", I have to just mention something I saw today, that if I had had any doubt that I was in Scotland would have cleared that right up. I was walking up the pedestrian mall Buchanan Street and there was a little tent booth set up. Looked like free samples of something, so of course I wandered over to see, and, lo and behold, it was a taste test, not of colas or breakfast cereal, but of potatoes.
Different kinds of potatoes.
I love it.
Someone said to me the other day that in Scotland "yer meat and two veg" is a steak with some mashed potatoes and some boiled potatoes.

Now the catch up begins.

So think back, waaaaaaayyyy back to May 18 of this year. That was my due date.
I don't know what you were doing, but I was having contractions. All day.

I woke up at 3:30am on the 18th, with intermittent cramping in my back wrapping around to the front to my abdomen. I was very excited. I lay there for about a half hour and then got up because I couldn't sleep anymore, partly from excitement and partly from discomfort. I sat up at the computer, and played some Word Twist on Facebook while timing my contractions which were coming between 10-15 minutes apart. "Wow," I thought, "this is really happening. The curry we had last night is working! Who knows how long it will be before they are down to 5 minutes apart which is when we should be going to hospital. I should wake Aaron up." So I went back into the bedroom and said to my sleepy husband: "I'm in labour."

Little did either of us know that I would be "in labour" (ie. having contractions of varying lengths and strengths) for the next 42 hours. Yes, all that day I tried to relax and carry on with daily life, which was hard because although the contractions weren't all that strong (compared to what was coming) it was impossible to get comfortable and I was having to focus and breathe my way through them - Aaron was already helping me out with the massage techniques we had learned and practiced - and then there was the anticipation, which we had already spread across the pond by calling the Grandparents-in-waiting sometime that day to let them know things were underway. So, it was with some disappointment and resignation that we went to bed, after watching a movie that was supposed to be a distraction but was so terrible it was just annoying ("Shoot em up" - very disappointing and weird). I didn't sleep much beyond an hour or two before getting up again to hang out in the living room on my hands and knees, the only position I had any relief in. I remember thinking "If only I could sleep like this..."

By ten o'clock the next morning, I called the hospital hoping they would tell me to come in even though the contractions were still only 7-10 minutes apart. They were definitely stronger and I was getting tired having hardly slept for two days. The midwife at the Southern General Hospital encouraged me to stay home longer. And by 1pm, I phoned again to say I was coming, regardless. Our friends John and Vibeka drove us to the hospital with our big bag. Terribly exciting! And even though I had a couple of contractions in the car, I was keeping my cool, breathing and squeezing Aaron's left hand while he massaged my lower back with his right.
When we got to the hospital, they kissed us and wished us well, and we made our way to the labour ward. We didn't wait long before we were taken into the triage area, where one of the midwives checked me out, and told us, with a sympathetic tone that I was only 2.5 cm dilated. A ways to go to get to 10. I couldn't believe it or do much to hide my disappointment as I was getting so tired. She counseled us that if we wanted to avoid any possible "interventions" - some kind of "augmentation" to speed things along - that we were better off to go back home and continue labouring there. I could hardly face another car ride, but, when she said that if we stayed at the hospital and I hadn't progressed into full labour by 8pm Aaron would have to then leave and get called back when I was fully dilated (!!!), we called a cab.

This is the point at which my memory gets really fuzzy. I know that we got back to our flat around 3pm. Someone had suggested that walking around would help - "Go for a walk..." - so we walked down into the ravine by the Kelvin river (my favorite spot) and climbed the bank up the the Botanical Gardens, and walked back along Great Western road. All this took over an hour and I had to stop several times for some pretty hefty contractions. I remember hanging onto wrought-iron fences both along the river and along the road with a ferocious grip, trying to focus and puffing out determined breaths. Then I remember being back at home alternating between being in the shower, on hands and knees and hanging over our bed for an hour and a half or so before my water finally broke. Yay! Now we had to go to the hospital, and surely this was what they call "established labour". Surely to God...

We got back into a cab with a very friendly and reassuring driver, who joked with us asking us to please not give birth in his cab, and who expressed some mild but genuine alarm upon hearing that my contractions were 3 minutes apart. He got us there safe and sound and swiftly, and as we made our way back to the labour ward, the reality of our situation - that this was finally it, the moment I had been imagining for months was finally upon me - hit me. I had to work hard to keep my focus and not get swept away by the huge wave of mixed emotions welling up inside me while we waited for what seemed to me like a long time in the waiting room before getting into triage again.
Now something that is important to remember, I think, if you are in labour or with someone in labour, is that when you are in transit (ie. getting to the hospital) your contractions slow down. I read this. Its as if your body knows you aren't in a safe place yet to deliver. And so, though my contractions had been 3 minutes apart when we left, they were now back at around 7. Back in triage, the midwife attending to me, going on the simple fact that I was at 7 mins, told me not to be disappointed if I wasn't much further dilated, like 4cm or something. I didn't believe that, but by this point I wasn't sure if I really didn't or I just didn't want to. However when she did her exam, I heard her say to Aaron: "Oh. Do you want to see the head?"
Only seconds after that, I had my first "transition" contraction - the ones that are really painful - and I finally understood just what has so many women screaming for drugs. I had, all along, actually been planning and hoping for a water birth. I picked the Southern General Hospital partly because it had a birthing pool. But when I was told the baby had passed meconium and could be in distress, meaning I couldn't use the pool, I couldn't have cared less. They moved me to the labour room, I started pushing and in less than two hours he was out.
At 11:45pm on May 19.

Of course there was a lot more to those two hours than that, but my memory of it is compressed and dreamlike. I do remember thinking right before he was born that I didn't know if I was going to have the energy to keep going, but then I thought that not having the energy was just not an option. That may have been the moment I really became a mother; that moment you freely accept that it is never just going to be about you ever again. As for other details of those two hours, I think they have been burned into Aaron's memory as he had an equally visceral though quite different perspective than I did. You can ask him.
I do have to say that the midwives who helped us deliver were fantastic. Gentle, calm, encouraging, accommodating and respectful of my wishes (I didn't want to be on my back), they offered Aaron the chance to cut the cord, which he did, and when it was all over, they brought me tea and toast. The best meal I ever had.

We had a good hour and a half then, mostly alone, with our little bundle. Our minds were exploding and bodies exhausted (Aaron had a couple of bruised knuckles from when I had unknowingly ground his hand into the bed-frame, and his right arm which had massaged my lower back almost constantly for nine hours must have been quivering), and we finally met the someone we had been aching to meet for months, and possibly years. We just couldn't get enough of looking. It was a quiet, extraordinary time that certainly is the closest I've ever come to what it must feel like to land on the moon.

Upcoming posts: Continuing with the catch up - Gil's first days, Family visits and summer events, but also Our Day at Loch Lomond and other more recent updates

Monday, September 14, 2009


Several people have told me that September is one of the more beautiful months for Glasgow, and this past weekend has certainly won me to that opinion. Bright sunshine combined with a fresh breeze, smells of new mown grass and fallen leaves. Today those smells were overpowered by the malty, burned toast smell of the Tennents brewery, which must be working over time to produce enough lager to meet the needs of all the Uni and college students during "freshers week".
The past four days of sunshine have made my daily walks with our little sprog especially enjoyable, and have allowed me to venture a little further and longer, prompting me to seek out open sunny spaces to walk, like along the Forth/Clyde canal, instead of under the treed canopy beside the Kelvin.
The "sprog" (or "the wee bairn") is pushing four months now - hard to believe - and is heart-meltingly adorable, says his mother and father, especially when he laughs, smiles, sighs, sticks his tongue out, sucks his toes, and sleeps.
There is so much to catch up on, blogwise, from the past four months that I have decided to do it in short little entries that won't seem so daunting to me. Especially since life has changed so much, as they say it does when you have kids. Daily life and life in general. "Changing priorities ahead." There just isn't as much time as there used to be to write, to read, to talk on the phone, to play games, to plan theatrical productions, whereas there is lots of time for feeding the baby, washing nappies, playing peek-a-boo, singing the "Capitol I" song, taking walks in the park so the baby will nap - a kind of enforced outdoor exercise and relaxation time. Yes, life has changed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Our new home

(This is an old post which I created the day before I went into labour, and so never finished and posted. Thus it is a bit of a time warp, but a good place to get y'all started on the big catch up of our eventful spring/summer.)

As some of you may know, we moved to a new flat in March. Nearly two months ago. The time has flown, as the fact that I am only writing about this now will attest to, but even from the first week here we felt very at home.
We managed to still stay in the same neighborhood as we were before, but a little further east, which puts us right on the cusp between an older, more upscale area of flats (that Aaron would refer to as a "leafy-profy area" - prof=short for professor), and a more working-class area, that feels like its struggling a bit. There is a discount grocery store in that area, where you can get decent produce and cheap but good cheese and oatcakes, or you can buy flats of pop, giant bags of crisps, and frozen chips. Not to mention cheap beer, wine and spirits. Still getting used to that. Booze in the grocery stores. Actually as my due date approaches, I getting more excited about that prospect...
A glass of wine.....ahhhhhh.....
Our flat is in an old tenement building, with high ceilings (11 feet, I think). We have a spare bedroom and a spare living room. Well, I guess we have a living room, and then a dining room which adjoins the kitchen and where we tend to spend much of our time. Its a very friendly room. We feel a bit spoiled for space here, especially as the flat we just moved from was rather small. When we sit in the dining room sometimes we imagine how 65 years ago there was probably a family of 8 living here, a younger couple with a baby, like us (almost), a set of grandparents, a newly wed brother and sister-in-law, who sleep on the fold out couch in the living room and a lodger who sleeps on the couch or a roll-away cot in the dining room at night.
Our cats are our only lodgers here at the moment, and very happy here. They were rolling on their backs purring, within hours of moving in. Expressing our sentiments exactly.

15 Random Pictures of Glasgow

Here they are, folks.  We've had random facts and now we have random photos.  Hope you like.

Pics: (from top, left to right) 
- Celtic Cross at the Necropolis
- The old Lyceum on Govan Road
- Detail on an archway of Lansdowne Parish Church, 1863
- Graffiti art on West Princes Street
- The detailing on this block of flats down the street from us is lion heads and, strangely enough, bundles of sticks with axes, a symbol closely associated with Mussolini's fascist party in the 1930's.  Curious about that story...
- A sunny afternoon at the Botanic Gardens
- Blossoms on West Princes Street
- Twenty's Plenty
- Inspiring message under Great Western Bridge
- Outside the Southern General, our chosen maternity hospital
- Old fence and tree
- Glasgow's city crest
- Spring in Kelvingrove Park
- George Square at Christmas
- Mural at the Glasgow School of Art

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Inveraray at last

I know this is the post you've all been waiting for.  I've been talking about it for months. So I'm finally here to tell you about the trip that Aaron and I took to Inveraray, just before Christmas.  As it happens, it is the only trip, besides our day trip to Edinburgh in my first week here, that we have taken together here.  And it was really lovely.

Inveraray is a little town on Loch Fyne which is a "sea-loch", meaning that it is technically a long inlet, like a fijord. It is about a two-hour bus ride to the north-west of Glasgow, a rather hilly area.  On our way there we passed Loch Lomond, and climbed up to a high pass with rocky waterfalls streaming down the hills, known as Rest And Be Thankful.  I think who ever named that place is one of the people I'd like to meet in the afterlife.  

It was raining for most of our bus-ride, and by the time we arrived, Inveraray was in the midst of a monsoon.  We were a few hours early to check in at our B&B, and with the inhospitable weather putting a damper (sorry...) on any sightseeing, we found the nearest tea-shop and squished in for tea and scones.  I'd been avoiding caffeine up until that morning, but under the circumstances, I just asked for hot tea and didn't get into "do you have any herbal?"  The roof of the shop was low and the walls were thick plaster.  It must have been a real local, because the next person who blew in after us, was a thin little old lady in a mack and plastic rain kercheif, and everyone in the place knew her name and sang it in friendly banter. 
"Windy, isn't it, Isobel? Toast and tea, Isobel? That's two pounds, Isobel."    

After we'd made our stop for tea last about as long as we could manage, we headed back out into the rain and down the street along the water's edge, to our B&B - "The Old Rectory", to find two big boxer dogs and our host Chris enjoying a roaring fire in the lounge.  We were perhaps a bit surprised though not dismayed to see that much of the common area seemed to be... under renovation.  Chris was really casual, and seemed a bit more the type to be running a hostel than a B&B, with his work shirt and boots still on from hauling and chopping wood for the fire, which seemed to be his favorite chore.  He didn't mind us putting our bags in our room before he'd finished making it up, and we didn't mind the rustic nature of his hospitality, or the lack of a shade on the lamp in our room.  We took the opportunity to change out of our wet things and get an extra sweater on, then headed back into town to have a look around.  

This only took about an hour given how tiny the town is, basically only one street and a few lanes.  We were getting hungry and so went to a great place called Brambles for lunch, where Aaron had lentil soup, salad and rollmops, and I had an Orkney Cheddar Ploughman's lunch.  Lots of pickles and cheese. Perfect for pregnancy. 
 Then we poked around in various shops including a gallery, the whisky shop, the boot shop (where I got some psychedelic Wellingtons, out of great soaking necessity) and then the Woolen Mill, which sold everything from kilts to cookies, and where we sampled some amazing strawberry wine.   
After exhausting the shops, we walked out onto the pier, even though it was still raining and blowing, to check out the clearly closed Maritime museum, which was on a boat, moored up and battened down.  We stood there getting soaked like dumb tourists, before heading back toward the B&B, stopping in at the George Hotel on the way for a drink and to dry off a bit.  We fell in love with its low ceilings, fire places, rough-hewn wood and stone, and came back in dry clothes after a nap, for supper.  Fish and chips and breaded scampi, by candles and mini-Christmas lights. 

I woke up the next morning, unsure if the scampi had become a gas bubble passing through my gut or if I was feeling our baby doing the backstroke. ( As it turns out, it was a baby blorp which was absolutely amazing, and which in coming days I would be able to discern more clearly.  )
We got up around 7:45, and looked out our window at the water.  The sky was lightening and cloudless over the exposed low-tide pebble shore.  We could actually see the hills on the other side of the water, and all around.  

Aaron went down to the lounge to see if we could have breakfast, which on the website said it was served between 7:30-8:30.  Apparently, Chris was asleep on the couch, and when he heard the door open, sat bolt upright and barked "Ach. Breakfast!"  Then he asked Aaron what time it was and went into the kitchen.   There was still a glass and a mostly emptied bottle of red wine on the floor beside the couch. 

I went outside to get some air and check the weather, and once I had walked across the road to the water and down some steps to the shore, I caught my first real whiff of sea-smell as my pink psychedelic Wellies crunched down on some sea-weed.  It was a gorgeous morning, kind of warm, mild and calm.  Aaron came out too, to tell me breakfast was on the way.  
And after our breakfast, about 30 mins. later, we agreed we wouldn't have to eat for hours and hours. There was cereal, juice, tea and coffee to start, and THEN came the full (and I mean full) Scottish breakfast of eggs, sausages, rashers of back bacon, fried mushrooms, fried tomatoes and toast.  We were absolutely stuffed, and fully prepared for a day of walking.

It was shaping up to be a beautiful day, and we went out the back gate into the muddy lane that took us into the centre of the town.  We walked right through and out the other side and along the highway in search of the trail that would take us up to a stone watchtower we could see from the town. We are always climbing hills on our trips, Aaron and I.  
It turns out we overshot the entrance to the path by a mile down the highway, but our mistake took us for a great seaside walk in the sunshine and to a very old graveyard, which was absolutely amazing - enchanted.  It was overgrown and mossy, and some gravestones that weren't completely crumbling bore dates from the late 1700's.  Lots of Campbells there.  This is Campbell country after all and we were thinking of Tim all day.  
Though we were glad of our mistaken discovery, we turned around and went back to Inveraray Castle grounds and found where we were supposed to be.  We weren't as awed by the castle up close, as it seemed a bit drab and ungainly in its design. (Listen to me - the castle critic...) But maybe it was just the season.  It was certainly very closed.  But the grounds were quite lovely in that they were open sheep pastures with big old gnarled oaks and lots of wooly sheep.

We found the trailhead and started a beautiful walk through a beech grove that had mossy covered foundations of old buildings throughout.  This gave way on to a meadow which we crossed to get to the edge of a thick evergreen forest - fir, pine and huge fragrant cedars, almost reminiscent of coastal BC cedars.  We came across some more ruins, and they were much more than foundations, and we puzzled over what kind of building it was.  Then we started a long climb that continued through beautiful lush forest.   

Being a pregnut, I needed to rest, so we sat down on some moss and ate apples, before continuing on at a slow pace, but eventually I told Aaron to go ahead without me and I would see how far I could get.  My hip flexor was seizing up, making the climb painful and slow for me, and the only relief I could get was to actually grab the front of my leg by the jeans and lift it.  In this somewhat ridiculous way, I actually made it up the rest of the hill, and Aaron who was returning to get me found me almost at the top.   I was so glad I made it because the views were spectacular.  And I had no pain on the way down - using different muscles I guess- thus I was able to enjoy the trail more on the return.  There were some gorgeous sections of the path where we were surrounded by emerald green mossy tree trunks that seemed to sprout from what would have been a solid carpet of moss, were it not occasionally broken up by a mini waterfall or creek burbling down the hill.  And the footpath often was a rusty soft carpet of dry pine/fir needles,  a stunning contrast to the lush green on either side.  

Once down at the castle again, as we were heading back out along the epic driveway towards the town, Aaron stopped by part of the hedge where there was a little wren-like bird with a rosy breast  perched quite close to us.  A robin.  Unlike our North American robins, the ones here are much smaller and fatter, and bolder we learned, as this one actually flew right up to us at the edge of the hedge to size us up and cheep at us brashly.

Back again in the town, we were finally really hungry and went to Brambles again for lunch, and the George Pub again for a drink.  We also got a few souvenirs, including a whisky Aaron thought would be a nice Christmas Day treat.  We found ourselves (surprise, surprise) back at the George Hotel for dinner, and as it was a very busy night with all kinds of Christmas Party bookings, we were given a little table in a different room that had a sign outside that said "Public Bar" left over from a time when there was a private bar, I suppose.  And some carolers came through (soaking wet, poor souls, but very lively) and sang some Christmas carols in the bar, making me all choked up.   

Although something that also could have been choking me up was the coal they were burning in the fireplace.  We made the fearful discovery earlier in the day in a small gallery/craft shop, that people here do indeed burn lumps of coal in open fireplaces, and the vile smell I have noticed at times in Glasgow and noticed a lot here in a small town, is the smell of burning coal.  I have to say that I was always under the impression that coal is a terrible pollutant (and certainly smells like something that should not be burning) and I'm really surprised that people still use it.  But apparently it is much longer burning than wood and cheaper, and there certainly is a lot of it here.   

On another note, when we returned to our B&B after dinner, our host had a lovely smelling wood fire burning in his faithful quest to never let it die.  And the next morning, prepared us another great scottish breakfast, which I suspected he made so big that we couldn't finish it and he could give our leftover sausages to his dogs.  The rain was back, so we were especially grateful for the glorious day we'd had the day before, as we clambered on to our bus back to Glasgow.  

Some Inveraray Pictures

(From Top to Bottom)
1. On our hill climb
2. (top right) Graveyard
3. and 4. Views from the top o' the hill
5. The Rectory Boxers
6. The Castle and sheep meadows
7. The street our B&B was on
8. The first day - on the pier
9. The George
10. Our B&B room

Thursday, April 16, 2009

25 Random Things about Glasgow

1. The corner of Great Western Road and Belmont Street ALWAYS smells of burning coal. I still can't figure out who might be responsible.

2. After centuries of this tradition, Glaswegians still technically have the right to dry their laundry on Glasgow Green, a large public park. 

3. Down in the Kelvin river valley, under a bridge near our new flat, there is The Wall of Liverwort.  Liverwort is one of the most embryonic forms of plant life, even older and less complex than moss.

4. Birds that sing at night - all night.

5. There used to be a bridge that crossed under the Great Western Bridge at Kelvinbridge at a low level just above the water that dated to 1825.  They didn't leave it there long after they built Great Western in 1891, but you can still see the stone reminants of it in the water, and I saw a painting once of how it wound crossways under the new bridge before it was removed. 

6. Holly and rhododendrons - growing everywhere. And neither one loses their leaves in winter.

7. Whenever it snowed enough to stay on the ground, snowball fights seemed to break out everywhere. My supervisor, Dawn, at my job at the university told me about "The Sunday it snowed" several years back when people went sliding down the hills in Kelvingrove park in old bathtubs.

8. On days when the Rangers play at Ibrox, they post a notice in the subway stations to say that "football is on today at Ibrox". There is also a noticable increase in the numbers of men and boys out and about with close cropped hair - (they must use clippers.)  One day when my parents were here, we got out at Buchanan Street station to find tons of security guards and roped off areas directing people into streams entering and exiting the station.  It looked like there was some major celebrity nearby.  When Aaron asked one of the guards at the entrance what the occasion was, she just said casually: "Ibrox.  We're just here to prevent the riots."

9. There is a tree on campus at Glasgow University that, all throughout the winter, was leafless but bore the most beautiful berries I've ever seen.  They looked like ash berries, but were white with a dusting of pink.  They were there all winter.  Once spring came, they disappeared.  

10.  Random nights of fireworks - people like to set off their own from their back gardens.  There was a week around Guy Fawks day in November when it sounded like a siege. Nightly explosions. 

11. When my parents were here, we were out one night looking for a place to eat and wandered by a particularly popular restaurant in Ruthvan Lane.  As we were looking at the menu, a young guy in a dapper suit who was outside smoking, asked us if we were looking for a place for dinner and what we were in the mood for.  He said he was the owner of the restaurant and he recommended it, but not for the seafood we were interested in.  He said all they had for fish that night was salmon and that was common.  So he recommended some other places.  He also asked us if we were Americans, and when we said we were Canadian, he apologized profusely and colourfully: "that's the fucking cardinal sin, in't it?", and proceeded to kiss my Mom on both cheeks.   Then he asked us if we could find him a Mountie.  Because he could "mount",  and he mimed a "mounting".  He was like a 21stC Scottish Oscar Wilde in his cups.  

12.  The variety of flora here.  and there are so many things that look like things I recognize but aren't that thing.  Like a tree with leaves that look like Maple, but aren't.  A bush with giant red rose-like flowers that is no rosebush.  Little yellow flowers that are like snapdragons, but bigger and wrinkled.  The prolific daffodils are unmistakable, however. Even in their multitudinous varieties.

13. Saturday and Sunday morning sidewalk puke.

14. Litter.  I actually saw a lady throw her empty cigarette pack into a bush last week.  It deeply shocked me, reminding me that I am so Canadian.  

15. The steepest hill in any city I've been in is  from Renfrew St. to Sauchiehall between the School of Art and the Centre for Contemporary Art.  I'm sure others would argue with me, but it is hell on the calves of an 8 months preg Waddleoppolus.

16.  All the trains, buses and the subway are run by different private companies.  In fact, there are many different bus companies.  So you have to pay separately for each leg of your journey if you are going via, say, subway and train.  And if you buy a return ticket with one bus company, you have to wait for that company bus on your return trip, even if there are dozens of other buses from other companies coming by your stop. 

17.  The Co-operative, the UK's largest consumer co-operative.  They have grocery stores, a bank, a radio station, funeral care, insurance, pharmacy, travel agent and are now launching a TV channel. And they are indeed a co-op.  You can buy a membership.  We bank with them and buy groceries there almost all the time.  Mainly because there are two of them near by where we live.   They have a lot of local stuff and fair-trade stuff too.

18. No stop signs 

19. One day when we were walking downtown, Aaron pointed out the most amazing thing.  I wanted to include this as a photo, but sadly when I went back it was gone.  We had just passed the Central Train Station on Gordon Street and he stopped me in front of a long alleyway. It was a very grey and black, dingy, dirt and trash filled alley, but at the end of it was a big bright indigo board or banner with white words written on it -  "You are Beautiful".

20. People drive like they expect pedestrians to get out of their way.  In a cross-walk, with a walk light, when the pedestrian light starts to flash to let you know you don't have much time left to get to the other side, at the same time, the traffic light flashes amber, presumably to let traffic start to flow if there is no one in the crosswalk.  However this usually means that if you are waddling across the street and the light turns amber for the cars, you better waddle faster because they will be revving engines and starting to drive towards you, even if you're 8 months pregnant.

21. I frequently notice on the weekends groups of 4 guys walking down the street together.  What's noteworthy about them is that the groups are consistently made up of four, they are all "hip" in that hair in-the-eyes, skinny-jean kind of way, but they all have their own special look, just like they were a band, and they all called each other to make sure they wouldn't wear the same thing, but that together they would form a clear unit.

22. The Sub-Crawl - a Glasgow tradition involving the beloved Clockwork Orange, the 3rd oldest underground metro in the world, after London and Budapest.  One is meant to ride the subway, get off at each stop and have a drink in a pub nearby. There are 15 stops. 

23.  Glasgow claims Adam Smith, the father of capitalism (sort of), as one of their natives.  It also has a long history of strong unions and socialist politics (the Red Clydesiders).  In fact, 'in January 1919, 10,000 troops armed with tanks and machine-guns occupied the city to quell what the Secretary of State for Scotland called "a Bolshevist rising".'  It is a city with some strong polarities.

24. Kingfishers at Kelvinbridge. The other morning as I was walking to my midwife appointment, I saw a teal coloured bird with a rusty breast flying under the Great Western Bridge.  My first thought was "Kingfisher", not that I'd ever seen one before, but I had heard that they are sometimes seen along the Kelvin river.  Our friends John and Vi later supported the theory, and said that it was pretty special that I had seen one. 

25. Connie, the Irish midwife at the Southern General Hospital, who clinched my decision to transfer there.  She was so completely given over to her passion for the birth process, that she almost had an aura around her.  She was encouraging the other women on the tour with me to consider a water birth, or at least labouring in water, which seemed unusually progressive to me for staff in a hospital.  But it was the moment when she actually put her head between her own legs, demonstrating what the baby has to do in order to come out, that really made me hope she'd be around at my delivery. 

Pics: (Top) Great Western Bridge(Middle) Liverwort(Bottom) Fireworks over Hamilton Park Lane

Next Posts Coming soon:  15 Random Photos of Glasgow and Inveraray (No, really. I really mean it!)


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Its spring!

It really is. 
But don't be too jealous.  Its still chilly. Although we did have that one day last week of nearly 20 degrees, which was gorgeous.  But extremely rare apparently.
Lots of daffodils are out.  Last week there were an abundance of flowering trees, pink and white. But this week most of their petals are blown off already, save a few that must grow in more sheltered spots.  
We have moved to a new flat recently.  And we love it.  So goodbye to Hamilton Drive, and hello to Raeberry Street. We will miss the views from our old place, but the new place makes us very happy.   It is a two bedroom, with high ceilings (11-12 feet?), a living room and dining room, and a bathroom with HEAT in it!  There is also a drying rack in our kitchen that hangs laundry near the ceiling. Tall windows, 3 south facing, so lots of light.  And somehow it already feels like a home.  
My temp job with the department of Geography at Glasgow Uni is finishing tomorrow. I will be sad to leave, although I am slowing down physically quite a bit as I approach the Ninth Month. So I am ready to finish work and do some nesting.  We are gathering bits and pieces of baby paraphernalia, much of it generously donated, and gratefully accepted. So we are feeling slightly more prepared now.  
My apologies for the short and mainly news update nature of this post, but there will be more once I finish working. More catch up ones.  Now I should go cut up the brownies I made to bring to my last day tomorrow.  Everyone here likes a sweet at teatime.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Four seasons in one day

That's what they say of the weather here. I would say that's true, certainly in my experience of the coming of spring, which feels in some ways its been coming for a while, and in others that it can't make up its mind about coming or not.
Today it snowed twice. Big fat fluffy flake snow that melted on contact with anything - street, tree, face, glasses, jacket. I didn't understand until I got to the church this morning why people were out in a snowstorm with umbrellas, but when I got inside, took off my sodden coat and saw the water pouring off my hood into a puddle on the stone floor, I got the picture.
As I said, it snowed twice. Once this morning, after which the sun came out in bright gloriously clear patches of blue sky, and then after it had clouded up again three hours later, it snowed again. With the same intensity. And then it cleared up again with the same brilliance. Three times a charm? You never know. I'm staring into a lovely pale blue twilight sky in the east, but the clouds are building up in the west.
This picture is taken of a yard just a few houses down from us on Hamilton Drive. The daffodils and crocuses (did you know it is NOT croci? according to spell check...) have been out since my parents were here visiting, which was three weeks ago now. But the deep pink rhododendron caught me by surprise a few days ago. It was so strange to see it in the snow... Since its hard to tell that its snowing in the picture, I decided to include a video Aaron took this morning after I left. His commentary gets abruptly cut off, likely by dying batteries in the camera, so don't be alarmed.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Forces of the Universe

Ok. Quick new post before I finish my lunch and run off to my NEW JOB!
That's what this is about.
As of this past Wednesday, I have been on a temporary assignment through one of the agencies I signed up with in January, at the University of Glasgow. And guess which department I'm working in. 10 points for those of you who said : The Geography Department.
Yes, it's true. An extraordinary coincidence. A wonderful twist of fate. This came about minutes after Aaron and I had signed a lease for our new flat, which we are ecstatic about. It's at these sorts of moments that I feel really taken care of by forces of the universe.
Here is a photo of where we are now both working. I know it says Midwifery above us but that sign is from another time. This is actually one of the entrances to the Geog. Dept. (photo taken by our friend Sheila, when she was visiting in December).
Oh, and Happy Valentine's Eve, for those of you who are in the mood. And for those of you who are not, Happy Friday the 13th!

Aaron and Rebecca by BPRD.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daily life

I know I said that the next post would be about our trip to Inveraray, and the next one will be, but today I just wanted to write about something current and not a month ago.
For the past two weeks, I have had a bit of temp office work at a small company that runs a training program to help people set up their own businesses. The work itself I was doing was easy if a bit tedious, but I didn't mind a bit. Because I felt, for two days out of the week, like I was a part of the fabric of Glasgow working life. I was participating in a well worn routine of coffee breaks, office banter and 3:30pm chocolate fixes. Its a routine I've become fairly familiar with over the past 8 years and my sporadic bursts of temping. And in the past two weeks its been very comforting. In fact in the mornings, after a crowded, but short, subway ride (they call it the subway here, not the tube like in London) to Buchanan Street and a block walk to George Square (pretty much the heart of the City Centre) I was so ... happy. I was very possibly the ONLY person smiling as I walked to work in the rain.
The people at the office where I was working were so very very nice. Dead friendly. And genuine. I think it was also really good for me to be in an environment like that, listening to everyone talk to each other casually all day, to be able to further get used to the accents. Just like there are Mississauga or Scarborough dialects in Toronto, there is a Paisley dialect in Glasgow. Two of the people in the office were from Paisley, and so is someone I volunteer with at the Heart Foundation Charity shop. So I'm starting to recognize some key sounds.
Yes, I'd say I'm settling in . And one of the most important things about settling in that I really realized this week, was how much I have underestimated my need to feel I belong. To a community here. To daily life here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Exploring Glasgow

A good part of our lovely Christmas/New Year's holiday was spent just hanging out with each other, both curled up at home with our cats and exploring our new city. There are many parts of it still unknown to us, so we ventured further east and further south on a couple of occasions.

Our easterly visit took us to Glasgow Cathedral, the Necropolis and to the Museum of Religious Life. Across from the Museum is also the oldest standing house in Glasgow, the Lordship Provender, where legend has it Mary Queen of Scots stayed for a few nights and wrote some rather incriminating letters that linked her to her second husband's murder. We were hoping for a tour of the house, but it was unfortunately closed due to lack of staff, said the note on the door. So we started out with the Museum, which is well worth a visit if you come to Glasgow. Not only does it have a floor devoted to religion in Scotland, and the wide varieties thereof, and the interesting and intense history thereof, but it has quite a few lovely artifacts and displays of religions of the world. Once through, we ate some homemade sandwiches we packed along, and then headed over to the Necropolis. Its a large cemetery opened up in the 1800's when Glasgow's population was starting to boom. It is clearly a cemetery for the gentry however with its large family mausoleums and giant monuments. Very beautiful as it spirals up a large hill with spectacular views of the city. But this was clearly not the resting place of all the Glaswegians who were living in the slums of the 1860's and dying of dysentery and cholera. Sorry, I guess I just have to get political about everything, but that's not hard to do here. There is such a strong leftist history to this city that is very interesting - parliamentary fears of a Bolshevik uprising in the late teens, famous labour strikes in the 30's and 70's, trade unions as major cultural supporters throughout the 70's and 80's giving rise to some strong political theatre and art, just for some examples. But I digress. I was talking about the beautiful monuments...
Then there is Glasgow Cathedral, with its ancient origins, the tomb of St. Mungo (who died in the 6thC) in the lower crypt, the 14thC Sacristy with its original oak door (a plaque on the wall points out the bullet holes which it gives as evidence of "troubled times", namely Reformation related sectarian violence, which continued on and off for about 300 years, actually more like 500+ years if you consider the Rangers/Celtics football rivalries. Rangers are the Protestant team and Celtics are the Catholic team, both Glaswegian, and there have been some pretty nasty things happen to fans caught alone in the wrong neighborhood.) (Another diversion, sorry.) My point was that the Cathedral is not very big but it is very old and very interesting, another must see for visitors.

As for our southerly excursion, that was after New Year's, and we went to Pollok Park, which is near the districts of Crossmyloof and Strathbungo. Its true.
The park is a very large estate donated to the city of Glasgow in the 60's and features lovely walking trails through various meadows and fields where giant long-horn Highland cattle graze (in the middle of the city!!) and two buildings of interest, Pollok House, which is a 18thC manor house (which we didn't go inside, because we were a bit short on time and hungry) and the Burrell Museum which houses the extraordinary collection of artifacts collected by William Burrell, a rich Victorian guy who really liked tapestries. He has a lot of other things too, but his medieval tapestry collection is really amazing. It is just such a lovely place to walk too. Aaron says it was voted the best park in Europe. Thus another highly recommended place to take visiting family and friends.

Pictures: Top Left - View to the south-west from the Necropolis, Top Right - Gateway to Pollok Park, Bottom Right - North Kelvin Meadow on a misty late afternoon

Next post: (working backwards here) Our pre-Christmas trip to Inveraray.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Its a New Year!

I had a chat with my mother-in-law on the phone the other day, who commented on my post about how difficult a transition this can be sometimes, moving to a new country and trying to settle in and all. And she said she thought it was good that I didn't try to avoid the truth that sometimes it isn't all wine and roses. (well, no wine at all for me these days actually...) I appreciated this feedback a lot. Now I don't feel I have to, or even could for that matter, stick to a particular portrayal of our/my experience here, which would frankly be pretty difficult seeing as something is always changing, both circumstances and perspectives.

After our Christmas and New Year's holiday for example, I felt a kind of peace or settled-ness that I had been wanting to feel since I arrived. I attribute this partly to the really good times I got to spend with Aaron, some of our new friends like John and Vibeke (who is from Norway), and a friend from my high school/university days in Edmonton, Sheila, who is doing a post-doc in Bristol, but came up to Glasgow for Christmas holidays.
We only hosted Sheila in our flat for a couple of nights since our couch is short, she has cat allergies, and she was spending Christmas proper with some other friends, but she was playing part of her vacation by ear, and we ended up spending much more time together than anticipated and had a really lovely visit. One day, we saw a play at the very interesting city centre venue called The Arches, which makes use of a huge and varied space beneath the Central train station, then we window shopped in some Goth-y stores, found our way to Winterfest in George Square where we had hot chocolate and marshmallows, and then topped it all off by going for sushi!!! (nothing raw for me of course, but still it is one of my favorites...) Aaron and I then the next day took Sheila to a small, slightly hidden tea house in the University area called Tchai-ovna, which, as it outlines is their 16 page menu, compiled in a small binder, was inspired by popular student tea houses in the Czech Republic and Hungary. Their variety of teas is overwhelming and it is truly a bohemian atmosphere where 3 hours can pass quietly and quickly by in easy conversation and comfy chairs. Sheila and I had to go back again the following day.

Then there was Christmas and Hogmanay (New Years) with John (a fellow student Aaron met on his first week here and who quickly became a real "mate") and his girlfriend Vibeke. John is from Yorkshire, in the northern part of England, and is doing his degree here in Economic Social History. He has been a welder by trade for years, and welded Aaron's broken Oilers key chain for him. His lovely girlfriend from Norway, and who is doing her PhD in Middle English, is named Vibeke Jensen. John apparently chuckled the first time Aaron told him what my name was. I have been tempted recently to call her "Veebs", but I don't know how that will fly.
We were invited over to John's flat for a fabulous (and apparently traditional) Christmas roast beef dinner, which also featured a traditional Norweigan snack - a kind of lamb jerky, which Aaron really tucked into. I was a little surprised when Vibeke told us about it and then proceeded to pull an entire leg (hip to heel) of dried lamb out of a sack, but I think Aaron enjoyed the carve-your-own approach.
We also spent New Year's with them at the Park Bar, a Highlander/Islander's pub which we had been to before, and which John favours in his preference for traditional "Old Man" pubs. There was live music all night, some classics played like "Dirty Old Town" and "We will die or be free cried the Bruce",and there was even some impromptu country dancing. Then at midnight, lots of kissing, and "Auld Lang Syne" played on the bagpipes. This might have been a time when I could have had that one glass of wine that people say you can have once or twice during your pregnancy, but I still feel weird about it so I didn't. But I had a grand time any way with my three gingerales!
It was a really great and fun night, and was a good way to start the New Year, with friends, with music and with a lot of laughter.

Next postings: Some holiday outings around Glasgow with Aaron, and our pre-Christmas weekend in Invarary.