Middle Weeks in Edinburgh

Monday June 9
We took the bus to the area near the Haymarket Toastmasters this evening.

We went into a small café down the road and around the corner from The Thistle, the hotel where it meets. I was a bit concerned because it looked more like a restaurant than a fast place to get food, but we did need to eat.

I ordered a cheese and (Canadian) bacon sandwich. (Bacon here is like Canadian bacon, not American. It can be crispy, but it’s not our thin strips.) It was excellent. It came with a salad, which was not listed on the menu, that had both peppers and tomatoes, so I was only able to eat half the sandwich. That was enough though.

I thought we would be quite late for the meeting, as the clock in the pub was fast (but I didn’t know that). It took probably 10 minutes to get our food and 10 minutes for them to get the check to work correctly—assuming they did.

We arrived at the hotel smack dab on time, which I grew up with as late.

We walked in the small room, maybe the size of our bedroom at home, and it was full. There were about three vacant seats, so we sat in those.

Toastmasters here introduce the meeting and the group of Toastmasters and the roles. The Toastmaster also mentioned that we are very encouraging and that folks clap a lot to be encouraging. They also remind of fire alarms and introduce everyone in the group (20 seconds per person, by the person). There were about 8 visitors, including us.

The group meets twice a month, each time for two hours. The first hour was introductions, roles, and speeches. They have the ah-counter here; this person is different from the grammarian/wordmaster.

There were only two speakers. One was giving their first speech and one their second. They were both interesting and fairly well done.

The second speech was from a chiropractor and Ron went and spoke to him and got his card for me. Ron is very concerned that I am seeing folks and not getting better quickly.

Then there was an interval. I spoke with the ah-counter, who mentioned that I had said um while talking to him and to Stephen (another member). I was put off and mentioned that in the US we count so’s and and’s that are connectives and used the same way and he had used two of each during his intro to his role.

That was not particularly polite of me. You’d think I’d be better at being polite after 50 plus years, but I’m not.

I also spoke with the person who was doing the table topics. He asked if I would be willing to speak. I told him yes and asked where we should speak—from our seats or the front? I told him Ron would probably speak as well.

Turns out the table topics are far more involved than ours. First, there are five! (Of course, in two weeks’ time, we might have six, so I guess it’s not that different.) Then, for this particular table topics’ round, the Topics Master told the beginning of a story and had us finish it.

Ron got the first question. It was, “You are out driving in your car in the Scottish countryside and you see a man running towards your vehicle and waving. You slow down and then stop, when you realize their clothing is burnt almost entirely off their body. You roll down your window and…”

Ron did a good job. He mentioned nervousness over a naked man in his car and that the man should be nervous as he didn’t know how to drive in the UK. He said the clothing was burnt from getting too near a volcano; this was particularly relevant as Edinburgh is built near/on a volcano.

I got the second question. “There are legends that say that on Christmas Eve at midnight, animals talk. You are watching television on Christmas Eve and your dog Bobby comes in and begins to talk to you. He says…”

I went to the front and said that I had heard of animals speaking at midnight and had read stories in fantasy about them and had always thought it would be cool. I did not comment on the fact that I would be unlikely to be watching television—especially not alone—though I did think of it. I said Bobby came in and said, “About that cat next door…” I tried to make my voice lower when I quoted Bobby. Then I told them that I immediately became concerned because we had already had trouble with the neighbor next door about getting in their garden. “I think the cat has a crush on me,” Bobby finished. “You do? What makes you think that?” I told them I asked. “Well, the cat’s hair stands up and she arches her back and then she stutters like she’s nervous talking to me—hisssssss.” I told them I looked at Bobby and said, “Bobby, that’s how cats show they’re angry and that they don’t like you.” At this point I turned my head away. I wasn’t sure what to say and I kind of looked in the corner away from everyone. Then I turned back, crossed my arms and in Bobby’s voice, I said, “Well, I didn’t like that cat anyway.” Then I sat back down.

There were three other stories. I wrote the prompts down, but I don’t want to get up right now and get them.

After the table topics, the evaluators for the speakers spoke. One was Michael (the new president) and one was Max. Michael pointed out that the first speakers’ Australian accent immediately pulled everyone in. That was a good point.

The Table Topics’ Evaluator spoke next. He got on Ron’s case for not standing up at the front. He didn’t have anything negative to say about me. He did the other three. Then he awarded the Table Topics’ ribbon to me.

The General Evaluator spoke next. She covered everything that hadn’t been already evaluated. I think it was five pages long. It was incredibly well done and very detailed.

At the end they asked the guests if they were willing to comment on the meeting. I said that I had heard that they were unlikely to be particularly encouraging… but that they had done an amazing job with that. They laughed.

Folks talked to us for about an hour afterwards. It was quite nice. We haven’t spoken to folks since we got to Scotland really.

Then we got the bus home and went to bed.

It was a very good day.

Tuesday 10
Wednesday 11

Thursday June 12
I had an appointment with the chiropractor who spoke at Haymarket today at 2:20. Ron went with me. The door was odd. Two half doors that opened about a quarter of the way and you could then reach the regular door’s knob.

We went in. We were early.

I spoke with Gary Blackwood for perhaps half an hour. Then he worked for a bit on my back. I laid on the floor for another half hour, paid, and then we left.

That evening was the Waverly Communicators meeting of Toastmasters. I was surprised to find that the info on the fire drills was included at this meeting too.

The schedule has the times when the green/amber/red will be given for each thing on the schedule. That’s a great idea.

Both Haymarket and Waverly had quotes that I would apply the next time I were doing timekeeper.
“Don’t count every minute of the day; make every minute count.” (Haymarket)
“Time is what we want most and yet what we use worst.” Wm Penn (Waverly)

The Waverly Toastmaster had quotes for every role. I particularly liked, “A man’s character may be known by the adjectives he habitually uses.” Mark Tawin

Waverly had a list of their members (or at least attendance from the last meeting). There were about 30 people and 5 visitors.

Waverly also had 5 table topics:
Tell a personal sports story
One thing still to be invented that would make your life easier.
“We most regret the things we haven’t done.” What haven’t you done—yet?
Some folks go wild when their team wins. What makes you go wild? (What are you wild about?)
Banks were once conceived of as bastions of dignity and virtue. What do you think of banks?

Ron was called on to do the banks talk and (with the exception of money in the mattress) did an excellent job of translating from across the pond to the UK. He also won table topics!

Waverly did the 20 second introductions, too, and had a general evaluator evaluating every single thing that wasn’t evaluated—except, of course, the general evaluator.

I spent the interval talking to a member about differences in the Toastmasters—and things I’ve learned in Toastmasters.

We left after about 15 minutes, rather than an hour. I think we were just too tired to chat with folks.

Friday, June 13
I went out to my last edphysio appointment today. I took the bus to get there and had a bit of a challenge following the directions to the place. (Left =/= right, no matter what the app says.)

After the appointment, however, I decided I would just walk around.

I found a nice little shop to get breakfast/lunch in. The waiter asked about what I was doing in Edinburgh and said he also lives in Leith. Several hours later, having meandered about halfway home, he passed me by on his way to somewhere Leith-y.

Another block up I found Hard Rock Café, with several eateries in sight. I don’t know why we had to eat there that day we “couldn’t find anywhere” to eat. (We passed four cafés. Maybe Ron didn’t want to eat at the same place twice?)

Crossing through the park and then walking through St. James Centre made the trip back amazingly shorter than the trip to the physio. I also figured out that St. James Centre has three floors. And I found a shoe shop that says they can reheel my boots in just a couple of hours. That would be good.

When I finally made it home, around 2:30, Ron was out. He had said he might be. I worked on things till 5:30 and then started getting ready. We were going to the International Chi.

Ron came home at almost 6 and we headed out. We were later than I would have liked, but we got to the Playhouse and got our tickets with 45 minutes left. So we went to the Slug and Lettuce, had sweet potato fries, and then headed back.

I thought the International Chi was a Chinese acrobatic group. It was more like an experimental dance company crossed with a martial arts exhibition. It was interesting and well done, but not what I was expecting. There were probably only about 75 people in the audience. There were about a third of that on stage.

Saturday, June 14

In the morning we went out to try I Heart Café. We walked the long way round, because that is the way Google routed us. When we arrived at 9 am, the place was closed and would be till noon.

We went on to the Italian café, Italian Eatery? We ate breakfast and read our iPad books there.

We stayed in all the rest of the day yesterday.

We’re watching the first Amy Pond Dr. Who. It makes so much more contextual sense.
“You’re Scottish; fry something.”
“You’re Scottish. What are you doing here?” “I had to move to England. It’s rubbish.”
bacon, baked beans, bread and butter, fish fingers, custard…

I wrote on Facebook that I’ve only seen 4 men in kilts the whole trip.

Sunday, June 15
I had intended to take a bus ride all over town, but instead I sat down at my computer and didn’t get up for three hours.

At 10 am Ron was up and we talked and dawdled.

Finally at 11 he said to go on and he’d catch up. I walked to the St James Centre for shopping—which I had decided was bigger than I thought at first. (This was incorrect.)

I brought my shoes with me, to have the heels repaired. The shoe guy, however, told me that if he repaired them, they wouldn’t stay repaired. They would just break again.

I didn’t throw them away, since they are my only dressy boots and if I need to wear them somewhere, the heels won’t really mess me up that much.

I walked around a lot and the mall didn’t have more than we thought earlier. There were shops I hadn’t paid attention to, though, and I went in some of those. I looked for shoes and for a tape measure—since we needed to measure our bags to get the plane to Cardiff.

Eventually Ron arrived. We walked around the mall a bit. Then we went… I can’t remember where. Around 3:30 we took the bus back to our house.

Ron got on the computer with me and it turned out that the train tickets to Cardiff were 165 for both, not each. So we don’t need to take the plane. That’s good.

Did I mention that a plane from Edinburgh to Cardiff has to go through Belfast and ½ of the changing planes has a 22.5 hour layover? While that would get us to Northern Ireland, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

Ron got online and got us cheaper tickets to Whitby, too, and I got us two nights’ stay in the Storrbeck Bed and Breakfast. We’re going Tuesday, just before noon, and coming back Thursday morning, which will give us a whole day at the abbey. While that is probably more than we need, it’s better to have too much time rather than not enough.

At 5ish we started getting ready to go to “Men with Coconuts,” a comedy improv group that was having a gig at the The Granary in Leith for the Leith Festival.

We went a little early, but not as early as I had hoped, to eat. Unfortunately, we had forgotten that it was Father’s Day and all the restaurants were full up. We ended up eating at Pizza Express. I had a salad, which was good, but not wonderful or anything. Ron had a pizza. He appeared to like it.

The comedy group did a series of routines that were quite good and then for the second half they acted out a “Broadway Musical” based on titles that folks within the audience voted for. We picked “Jenny of the Soviet Bloc.” It was quite interesting and decently done. I would say they were a bit embarrassing with their sexual actions, particularly the gay ones, but two of the audience actually got the going in that direction by moving their bodies (one of the routines) for them. I closed my eyes for part of that. They were very funny. I would enjoy going to see them again when they are doing something else.

Today I saw 5 men in kilts. It was quite nice.

Monday, June 16
I did get up early this morning. It still took me more than an hour to get out of the flat, but I did get up.

I caught a bus to St Andrews Garden Square, walked around and read the “The Brain is Wider than the Sky” posts with images. Some of them were quite fascinating.

Then I took the MacTours of the Edinburgh Bus Tours. That was quite fun and I learned a bit. The schtick on Dean Brodie wasn’t as interesting as John Z’s, but there were other things I learned. I enjoyed it. I’ve got notes on paper that I’ll try to transcribe soon.

When I got back I walked to the chiropractor. Or I thought I did! Actually, I walked to the physio. Thankfully I hadn’t stopped in at a café and when I realized I was in the wrong place I was way early for my appointment there (and almost made it to my actual appointment on time). I did call to let Gary know that I was running late. Then I got on a bus I’ve never been on before and went out.

After the chiropractor I went and had lunch. I ended up at Pizza Express because the café with internet was closed.

I went into a small St. Columba’s charity shop, but it smelled of cigarette smoke, so I walked right back out.

Then I caught the bus to St. Andrews Garden Square again. Well, I meant to do that. Instead I went the wrong direction. And the bus got off its route due to a diversion. So I had to wait till it was where it needed to be, then get off, then find a bus in the opposite direction. It took quite a lot of time and my phone was running down rapidly.

I found a Starbucks with plugs right before I got to St. Andrews Garden Square and stopped in there. The carrot cake is execrable. I ate about 1/3. My phone is up to 54%, so I am going to shut down and get on another tour.

I took the MacTours first. Then, after lunch and the chiropractor, I took the Edinburgh tour, which starts at Waverly Station—even though I started at St. Andrews Garden Square. Finally, getting back just as the last tour I could take started, I went on the Majestic Tour. The most interesting thing on that tour was that Leith Mills (which is in Leith) is a great shopping center for tartans and cashmere. Ron and I will just have to go check it out.

When it ended, I went down George Street, looking for somewhere to eat near the Royal Society of Edinburgh. I signed up earlier today (after Starbucks) for a discussion forum this evening on Sir Walter Scott (Uncle Watty, one of the tour guides called him) and the new science of reading. I ended up eating around the corner at a Costa; once again I had the ham and cheese toastie, which was quite good.

I have seen three more men in kilts today. While it’s not “men in kilts everywhere,” that is much better than what I had been doing. I don’t think it is simply a case of looking for them, either, because I had been looking for them.

Wednesday, June 18

Thursday, June 19
The Rileys were expected today, but they didn’t arrive until after midnight.

We went grocery shopping and I ended up going around Princes Street looking in shops.

Friday, June 20
Ron and I got up around 6 am. We went to the grocery store and the pound stores, looking for, among other things, suntan lotion. We got back to the flat right at 10.

Jon and Angela came and picked us up at 10. We went in the car out to the airport to attend the fair. I thought it was going to be very boring, but eventually Angela and I found the craft tents. We went through all of them.

Then Ron and I went through all of them again, when Jon took Angela to meet a coworker. He bought a kilt pin from a jewelry maker. It is very nice, a sword/cross, topped by a thistle, with a shield with the Scottish saltire (cross) on it. He liked one with a green stone (really glass), but he didn’t know what color tartan he would end up picking, so he didn’t get it. The pin he chose was the last one of that type that the jeweler had.

Ron and I were wandering around and saw a bunch of guys, and then a few girls, in kilts. We were looking at their different colors and the ways they were wearing their pins and things. I noticed that most had socks that matched their waistcoats or jackets. One guy, though, wore lighter socks. One guy, who had a waistcoat and jacket in green matched a different color in his tartan with his socks and I think that was probably a good idea.

Turns out this group is the National Youth Piper Band. We got to hear them do three or four songs, because we were around where they were when they began playing. Their director is from Australia, which was funky. He was in long shorts. But he also didn’t walk with them on the field. Instead they were led by some other guy in a kilt.

After that Ron and I wandered around and we found some big tents with booths in them. The kilt maker he was planning to use, Geoffrey the Tailor, was there and he was measured for and ordered his kilt—an ancient color (o/c for old color) Davidson tartan. It’s a medium blue, medium green, black, with a bit of orange. He liked it.

We found out why the students’ kilts from the Youth Band looked different from the back. They were not “set.” When you have a kilt made so that it is set, the back of the kilt will look just like the front. They fold the pleats to do it that way. Most kilts, particularly machine made kilts, don’t do that, so the colors of the kilt emphasize something else from the back.

Angela and I both looked for coats at Welligogs. Angela actually ended up buying a very cute navy coat with flaired bottom that was fairly heavy and had a nice hood and well-lined pockets. It was 150 pounds, but a good buy for that, I think.

Saturday, June 21
We got up way earlier than Jon and Angela and went to the Royal Mile. We went in several cheaper kilt places and a more expensive one. Then we went in Geoffrey the Tailor’s and there was almost nothing there.

We also went to W. Armstrong to look at jackets and kilts. I’ve now been there three times and haven’t purchased anything, so I think I should quit wasting my time going back.

Then we went up the Royal Mile towards the castle to look at the weaving exhibit in the Royal Armoury. The exhibit (with live weaving on weekdays) used to be owned by Geoffrey the Tailor, but they sold it. However, the clerk said they thought it was still up and running so we went there.

Inside the building, which isn’t particularly large from the outside, there were 6 or so half floors. Ron ended up buying a dark blue ghillie shirt and a black everyday tartan of heavy cotton. He also bought a remnant of Davidson tartan in the old colors.

While we were there, Jon and Angela showed up. Jon came downstairs looking for us—as the place was not particularly pram friendly. When he found us, I went upstairs to wait with Angela.

Then we went to the castle. All of us got ½ off because we are members of English Heritage. Angela and I both got one audio each. I wouldn’t do that again, though it wasn’t outrageous. There were just so many people you didn’t feel like you could wander around and look at things.

The first thing we did, pretty much, was go eat. I didn’t eat, but everyone else did.

We went to St. Margaret’s chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh, but it was closed for a wedding. So we went on to the place with the Scottish Crown Jewels. They are the second oldest in Europe (after Hungary). One would think that would make them truly ancient, but, in fact, they are only from 1540. However, since the English crown jewels were destroyed by Cromwell, and so are even later, I guess it makes sense. Folks’ crowns got taken off as pillage and had to be remade…

The place where the crown jewels were said it would take 25 minutes to go through. It had a lot of history things that were very interesting. The crown jewels themselves were very difficult to see as they were in a tiny room and everyone was in there and just stayed. I did get a good look at the sword and scepter though.

After a quick (2 minute?) look around the birthing room of King James I, we were heading out of the castle. Then Angela reminded me about St. Margaret’s. So I went up and went in. There was a line, but it was quick moving.

The chapel was small and had three tiny stained glass windows. I put in a pound and got the book about the place to read later.

Then we left.

After the castle, we went to Rosslyn Chapel. It was begun in the 1400s. I really enjoyed it, though I wished I had brought my camera. Then Ron pointed out that they don’t allow cameras in the chapel—which is where most of the interesting things are—and so I felt better after that.

I wrote a poem about Rosslyn Chapel and St. Margaret’s Chapel.

For dinner we went to Noble’s Bar. I called in our reservations as we were heading back to Leith. They reserved a large table for us and we put the buggy at the table.

Jon and I both ordered a Thistley cider. It was the only non-dry cider they had. Quite good. I made a joke about being old and Jon spewed cider all over the entire table. … Stuff like that happens sometimes.

I had the sweet potato soup, which was good but had too much rosemary. I also ordered the cheese board—which was awful. The blue cheese stunk so much I couldn’t eat the other two cheeses either. Ron ate some of it. Then I ordered the blood orange syrup cake with ice cream. It was AMAZING.

Ron and Jon were going to a movie tonight, but I was so foot-sore, that I went home and went to bed. I am sure Angela felt abandoned, but I needed to lay down.