Tag Archives: Dundee

Happy Hogmanay to All, And To All A New Year!

Hogmanay is the Scots word for the New Years Celebration, typically celebrated with fireworks and a procession of carrying torches through Edinburgh dressed in kilt. Photo compliments of Edinburgh Hogmanay official site.

 

Walking barefoot up the driveway, knapsack slung over shoulder, and hair pulled up in a patterned red bandana, I trudged up the long dirt driveway Tuesday morning, the 20th of December after too many hours of cross-continental journey.

Didn’t bother to tell anyone that I’d make it home for Christmas.

I guess it was a bit of a shock to them all. Mom started crying, and she got all emotional. I think it’s a mom thing.

Back in Dundee, Scotland, I think it was right about my twenty-eighth listen of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” that it began to sink in.

The way in which my Christmas playlist included every known version of that song from Bing Crosby to Rascal Flatts, Frank Sinatra to The Carpenters, Michael Buble, Elvis Presley, Josh Groban, Sarah McLachlan, Kelly Clarkson, Johnny Mathis.

They all had a go at the carol.

I would know.

I began to think that perhaps there was something beyond just a simple fascination of the song, some sort of subtext I still can’t pinpoint.

Needless to say, I made it home.

Never did figure out about that song fetish though.

My To Do before trekking back to the land of the Scots includes primarily getting a tan.

If only for the sole intent of ceasing the incessant inquiries as to the quasi transparency of my white skin if I was supposedly from “California.”

Well that, and procuring a cheese slicer before I head back over, to make the production of toasties a relatively simper ordeal.

Just a wee while back, would be measured round bout a year ago on this Gregorian calendar of ours, I fought, and bit, and fought some more to get outta this star spangled country and cross over quite a few borders.

It was something I needed to do.

This year, I fought (with myself) to be back home, paid 600 pounds, traveled for 31 hours, took a month off work, and abandoned the opportunity of a White Christmas.
Just to be back home.

Because it was something I needed to do.

I hope I stop needing to do things.

It’s getting kind of expensive.

Looking back over my pale Scottish shoulder at where I was this time last year, I figure I’ve covered a bit of distance.

Quite literally.

And, I may have learned a thing or two, although I beg you not to ask of me what seeing as I’m still not all too sure myself.

Written in my journal a year ago, from January 1st, 2011 as I sat in the airport about to fly out to Thailand for university at 12:04 am, reads,

             “I have been anticipating this moment since the dawn of time and before, marking it my bridge to freedom and the gateway to independence. But somehow in my mind, I’d always envisioned it with a bit less jet lag, and there was definitely a significant increase in the flowery scent of my aroma and my hair had a bit more curl, and a bit less grease to it. I was to be self actualized, with a fully endowed D-cup, and pristinely decoupaged matching suitcases. There would also be a scarf gently drifting behind me, you know, daintily traipsing in the ever constant breeze.

Yeah, well, that didn’t exactly happen. This new years as the clock strikes twelve, I’m considering it beneficial to mankind on a whole that I’m not kissing anybody, as I run the tip of my tongue against the grit caked up in chunks clinging to the back of my fuzzy travel teeth. Travel teeth, in accordance with contacts so dry I’m considering soaking them in Head and Shoulders. Not entirely how I’d imagined it, in fact it’s a little left of center, a little lotta left of center. But I wouldn’t have it any other way in the world.”

So I hope this New Year finds you not quite exactly where you thought you were gonna be, but instead, exactly and precisely where you ought to be.

And for me, that was home.

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An Unconventional Feast.

“Wait….. I know this…..Thanksgiving…..so is that like with the cowboys, and the indians……right?”

So young.

So hopeful.

So idealistic.

And it was up to me to shatter their dreams.

“Not quite.” Was all I could muster, eying the can of Pringles someone had brought along as a contribution to our Thanksgiving Feast.

I suppose that was an improvement to the flat next door that turned up with a handful of plates insisting that I had said in the invitation to, “Bring a dish”.

Which, to be fair…I suppose I had…cheeky Brits.

I felt it my moral obligation to spread the word of the Yanks, peace, justice, goodwill toward men, and basically I just wanted an excuse to stab a knife into that pumpkin that had been sitting on our window ledge for far too long.

Pumpkin Pie just waiting to happen.

The day before the feast I decided it probably a practical idea to plan my menu, taking advantage of a horribly drab International Relations lecture on the nuclear dimension of contemporary war to get a game plan. Leaving the entire lecture hall seated behind me drooling as I surfed the web for the supreme apple crisp recipe.

Six hours and three grocery stores later, I lugged my many many multiple bursting brown bags up the steps, round the corner, and into the kitchen where I remained for the next twenty four hours.

I’d reserved the morning for pies, and I’d reserved my flatmates for peeling: potatoes, pumpkins, apples, butternut squash.

I’d contemplated a Thanksgiving Dinner Draft, but dismissed that plan on account of it not really fitting into the spirit of things, mandatory lettuce washing and all. Instead I resorted to merely wailing desperately every time a victim entered the kitchen, “HOW ON EARTH IS ANYTHING GOING TO GET DONE ON TIME???……….”

It proved effective as my flatmates harbor unique talents of picking up subtlety.

However I found with this tactic that they all tended to stay in their rooms starving themselves the entire afternoon, for fear of being allocated a duty dare they enter the kitchen to grab a breadcrumb, or two.

Susanna, pleading for mercy and camped out on the couch, exhausted by my slave driving tactics in order to create the most perfect, harmonious, idyllic Thanksgiving Dinner on the face of Flat Two!

But fear not, don’t allow yourselves to be deceived by that plastic bag in the picture, everything was, as can be assumed, grown, harvested, and prepared by *cough cough* yours truly. From ground to table. With MAYBE the slightest of detours through a supermarket aisle in between…

Susanna and Sarah, doing a wonderful job of pretending to be having fun.

And thus it began.

Everything at once. The oven was beeping, the fridge was humming loudly, the stovetop was boiling over, and the microwave was making never before heard sounds not unlike the Philharmonic Orchestra with a slightly more techno edge to it.

But this was not the time to sit and wonder.

It was the time to bake, and stir, and cook, and taste, and grate, and peel, and season, and mix, and pull things out of the oven, and rotate pots on the burners, and turn down the heat, and open the fridge, and peel off wrappers, and somehow…

Green Beans with Apple Cider, Mashed Potatoes with Butternut Squash, Brown Sugared Sweet Potato Yams, Dinner Rolls, Cranberry Sauce, Stuffing, A Green Salad, An Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream and Two Pumpkin Pies.

If desired, one can memorize the aforementioned feast and repeat in alphabetical order, backwards, for entertainment on long car rides.

For the record, there’s about twenty witnesses the skeptics can contact.

I don’t have a photo, but I can tell you this; It was good, and it got eaten.

And we sat around the table and all tried to act as American as possible, this was achieved mainly by using the terms, “dude” and “gnarly” at frequent intervals, and emphasizing how the man was holding us down, and how the Fourth of July was by far our favorite holiday.

In what was probably the most unconventional Thanksgiving ever.

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Oh, To Be A Brit!

I must admit, I was a bit disappointed upon coming to the UK, to discover that my dreams didn’t immediately have accents.

If my laptop (moment of silence in reverent memory of Steve Jobs) could change time zones without my assistance, and my Ebay account show only UK listings, then surely my dreams would get the message that it was time to Britanize the settings.

But, rude awakening to reality, I’ve still got that horrific California drawl of an OhMyGod! accent…even while I’m sleeping.

The adaptation processes is currently underway.

The one where I’m consistently in the wrong about how to say, and how to spell, and how to eat, and how to dress, and how to cross the street.

And have got to start adding a ‘u’ to color and eating french fries with a fork (and calling them ‘chips’ while I’m at it) and making the word ‘you’ plural (as in, “Would yous like some butterscotch pudding?”) and getting made fun of when I pronounce ‘garage,’ and ‘tomato’ like an “American.”

Or if I use the word ‘pickle,’ or ‘pants.’

Or ask for napkins in a restaurant.

Or inquire as to how many touchdowns were scored in a rugby game.

Or try to read the weather report, or bake something, only to discover I have absolutely no idea how hot, or cold anything ever is.

As my terms for heat and frost have been reduced to just that, “hot” and “cold.”

Numbers and temperatures have gained a liberating sort of insignificance.

Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

But despite all those desiccately dry British jokes (the majority at my own expense…) that I simply just don’t get (because there is nothing TO get).

There’s something I absolutely can’t help but admire about a country thats’ trains are faster than their busses.

That loves Jaffa Cakes almost as much as they love their queen.

And that dress their policemen up in such cute little outfits.

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The Great Cracker Challenge.

  

Living in Apartment Number Two of the largest student-housing complex in town means that we get a lot of visitors.

Mainly due to the lack of flights of stairs required to scale in order to reach our front door. After a mere literal hop and a skip, you’re in the building.

News Flash: A rainforest genocide has taken place and the results are apparent by the twenty seven odd pamphlets slid under our door each half hour. Advertising new salons, an Indian food buffet, this Friday’s jungle themed rave, and a free bag of chips with the purchase of a new printer.

Believe me, there is quite a party going on beneath our doorframe.

And those are just the notices from those either to respectful, or just to lazy to knock.

There’s another whole genre of PR folks who’ll pound down your door with their various rhythms of knocking until you open it up and listen to their spiel.

We always glue our faces against the peephole and give the knocker a thorough once over evaluation before deciding whether or not to let them in, at the high stake sacrifice of giving them a couple minutes of our lives that we’ll never get back again.

But I’d take the PR staff any day rain or shine over the man who tests our fire alarms. He has this tendency to barge in at all hours of the wee morning, and put off the fire alarms under the pretenses of “testing them.” I’ve come to the sole conclusion that as a youngen he had many a sleep cycle interrupted by intrusive fire alarms, and from a psychological standpoint, he now seeks to make amends by persecuting countless other meager seekers of knowledge.

Just the other day after a bit of habitual knocking, I swing open my door indignantly to reveal probably the most intriguing triumvirate to ever grace the carpeted hearth of Flat Two.

They labeled themselves as architecture students, raising money for their new project of outdoor classrooms.

I wasn’t sure how pleasantly this would pan out with the harsh and icy Scottish windy weather. But I wasn’t there to interrogate them on the practicalities of their scheme, I was present merely to cock my head in wonder at the sign strung round the young mans neck, reading,

“Can YOU Eat Four Crackers In One Minute?”

I don’t know, could I? Surely four crackers wouldn’t be too difficult for a bigmouth such as I.

They all held uniformly mischievous smiles and a single orange bag of seemingly innocent crackers.

The challenge was thus: Consume four crackers in one minute, and win a bottle of Irn Bru (a type of strong orange flavored soda, so popular it’s practically the national drink of Scotland…and nowhere else…).

It was a tempting offer.

And I’ve never been good with temptation.

Reluctantly, I shoveled over a pound, and came to the realization that those elementary school wrapping paper fundraisers never really come to an end, they are just revamped to create a college rendition of the door to door give me all your money tactic of acquiring funds.

So I began.

One cracker at a time.

Liquids not permitted.

Biting through the stack of parched cardboard, the crackers crumbling beneath each other in their crispy shards of dry.

I chewed.

And chewed.

And choked.

And all I could hear was the sound of my relentless salty chewing.

I paced the hallway to the recurring sound of the architects dull counting down of the seconds.

And I heard behind me the muffled expectant cheering of my flat mates.

And then came the loudest sound of all, the dry chortle of sawdust spewing from my mouth as I bent over the bathroom sink gasping through splinters of wheat as failure glared at me in layers from the depths of my bathroom drain.

Most likely a photograph is neither necessary, nor appreciated, and I’m quite certain your imagination is vibrant enough to conjure up it’s own mental picture. However I’m never one to waste a perfectly good photo….

 

Trust it to students to come up with a fund raising idea of such ludicrous proportions, and leave it to students to actually participate in, and enjoy (relatively) said activity.

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All Moved In And Eating Lots Of Toast.

My new best friend.

Couldn’t think of any better way to say: I’m moved in.

On average, we consume about five toasties each per day.

Six flat mates in total.

Now, I’m not much of a math person, but that is a lot of toast and cheese.

Simple. Brilliant. Delicious.

A very global, British-esque version of a quesadilla.

I suppose it’s safe to say, I made it over. I made it moved in.

And am currently in the involuntary process of becoming everything British.

One week down, and hot toast and tea has become my primary staple. 

As if on cue, just to remind me of where I am, Jonathan yells across the flat in distress at Gordon, “How do I tie these bloody laces round my ankles?”

It seems getting dressed for a fancy evening out becomes a bit more complicated if you’re required to wear a skirt.

Especially a plaid one.

With no underwear.

Gordon and Jonathan, both medics, are headed out to a “Caleigh,” a type of scottish dancing ball, this one specifically for doctors.

Jonathan has been griping all week over the sixty pounds he had to spend to rent his kilt. It was the cheapest one in the shop and he had to buy kilt insurance as well, a concept I found to be ridiculously entertaining.

Gordon, the only son in his family, owns the kilt with their specific tartan that had been passed down for ages, well, at least from the sixties. He occupied himself with firing rapid complaints over the length of the sleeves, which to be fair were about three inches shy of fabric. As well as the avocado color and “lame” pleat of his very vintage kilt.

All I can do is thank the lord almighty that my flatmates where graced with considerably much more patience than I myself possess. As they tolerated the stupid blonde American, as she photographed literally every moment of their existence as though I was a proud parent taking pictures of prom night and the pinning of the corsage.

I couldn’t help it.

They were wearing kilts.

It really doesn’t get much cooler than that.


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Ready For TakeOff.

I absolutely NEVER sit next to cute guys on airplanes.

And I have been on a lot of airplanes.

The seating chart roulette always lands me next to those little kids that squeal and kick the backs of other people’s seats repetitively, and then those other people flip their heads backwards and send me those small snarky glares meant to intimidate me into controlling my child. Either that, or old woman.

Not that I have anything at all against them, it’s just that they don’t happen to be cute guys.

Which, biased though I may be, is always preferable.

“God, I love karma.”

I thought to myself while heartily examining the back view of the young man taking up all my compartment space in the overhead storage area.

Normally I’d be significantly ticked off by the intrusive demeanor of his luggage. Except that him placing his lumpy orange duffel all up in my space meant only one thing.

That my space, was his, to get all up in. 

Swoon.

I don’t remember his name, apologies, was a bit distracted. However I guarantee that it was a very nice one, in fact there’s probably a couple of colognes named after him, and one dedicated solely to his fresh and dewy in-flight airplane scent. 

So I’m sitting there, avoiding the armrest and all eye contact, safety informational tutorial droning on in the background. Alerting me in the case of emergency, to remove all high heel shoes, as they may puncture a hole in the aircraft slide. 

Here I am, trying to think of something remarkably stunning to say. Wishing I knew Cameron Diaz’s cousin or something, so that I could casually slingshot it into a conversation, racking up a jackpot of “cool by association” points.

When all of a sudden I blurt out, “I lost my passport!!!”

And it worked. Instant conversation. Just add water.

In no time flat, he became very interested in where and when the last time I remember having my passport (and ticket…) was.

This is a start.

Maintaining interest in each other is a key factor to any steady relationship.

And he was down on his hands and knees, checking around my seat, and under the feet of my neighbors. I was tearing apart my backpack, and flipping wildly through those pamphlets filled with overpriced items in the back pouches of each seat.

And all of this would have probably been just fine and dandy.

If it hadn’t been that I really had lost my passport, and if the flight attendant man with the perfectly parted, if slightly greasy hair hadn’t come over and informed us that in order for take-off all passengers had to be securely buckled as was announced in the safety instructional video. Which I hadn’t necessarily been watching said video as I had much more important tasks to complete at the time, like losing my passport.

Ever wondered how to lose something you’re clutching in both hands and guarding with your life? Look an Irish man in the eyes. 

When I stand up to do one last search in my overhead baggage, I glimpse a lonely looking passport neglected in a far corner.

Sure enough, it had my very own horrifically un-photogenic picture gracing the inside cover.

Maybe there’s a very good reason I never sit next to cute guys on airplanes.

…It’s for my own good.

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I Love Packing.

 I love packing.

Correction.

I absolutely adore packing.

Packing fits into my category of cleaning.

Which I also love, but only the fun type of cleaning, like emptying out old closets, sweeping up spilled Cheerios, and folding warm static-y post-dryer clothes.

Three activities of which I’m particularly fond of.

I must admit that cleaning my room is on the top of my favorite things to do, almost grazing writing in a plain black journal with a steamy cup of peppermint tea.

Emphasis on the almost.

Ironically enough however, my room is a constant disaster.

Although I often feel like I spend the entirety of my spare moments wading through cleaning it.

Still haven’t sorted through the complexities of that paradox.

Packing for a trip, to my delight, is like cleaning for a purpose.

It also includes, which I won’t eschew either, shopping for a purpose.

A reason to rid your closet of the most comfortable elastic-less underwear, third grade class t-shirt, and that faded pink, ratty old sweater that magically becomes the first thing you put on.

If it doesn’t fit in the suitcase, it’s got to go.

I made an exception for a pair of moss green beaded espadrilles, and hid them in the back of my empty closet, hoping their impracticality would mark my return to the States of America.

I do believe, however, I’ve somehow discovered the reason behind the majority of all suitcases being black, the most evident of which, includes the miraculous slimming qualities of the color black. That can make even the most abundant of overstuffed luggage look remotely thinner. Whereas, my own bright red polka dotted bags never manage to attain that same degree of sophistication.

But they are pretty cute, to say the least.

One thing that’s left me persistently baffled is the manner in which a girl such as myself, who loves organization to such a meticulous degree, has absolutely never managed to pull up to the gas station pump with the right side of the car facing the tank on the first try.

Not to mention all those times I forgot to empty the lint filter in the dryer, or left my quesadilla on the stovetop frying to a blackened crisp.  Or the way I consider it a rare blessing when I’m able to find the car keys in under five minutes.

Perhaps organization comes in hills and valleys, in ebb and flow.

Becoming too organized can leave a sterile taste at the back of your tongue, and a floor too clean to tiptoe on.

Being too flamboyantly gaudy with muddled disorder, obtrudes your mental space with materiality, and obstructs clarity of thought and vision.

I guess we just can’t win em all, and in the meantime, I’ll be over here leaving my coffee cup on the roof of the car in the Coffee Bean parking lot, as I peel out of the drive way, just to run home and measure the precise degree and angle each item occupies in my suitcase, and the additional weight it adds.

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