Saturday, April 29, 2006

Scotland Day 1 of 9, Part One

My numbering makes no sense. The REAL day one in Scotland is the morning we arrive, 8:00 AM local time. Our guide, George, met us at the airport and laughed over the amount of luggage we had, wanted to know if we were moving in. Accent? Oh ya. Heavy accent. They went to the what? the toolit? And who the hell is Mum?

I need to back up. The flight was wonderful. The last time I took a trip with my mother I was about 12 or 13 years old and we (Michael, Mom, me, Carolyn, 1976?) drove the old Mazda to Disneyland and listened to Beatles all the way. That's how I remember it, anyway. This, on the other hand, was Grown-up Travel. And I'd never traveled with my grandmother. I sat between Mom and Grandma on the plane, rubber-necking back and forth, soaking up the face to face time. I don't remember a single thing we talked about, but that isn't important. Important was the nearness and the touch and the smile.

All seven hours of it.

There were two movies, the names of which I don't remember but watched anyway. One was...Diane Keaton, Dermott Mulroney (what a hottie!), ding-dong from Sex and the City, Matthew Broderick's wife. I like her, don't get me wrong, I just don't remember her name. Oh, and that guy from Coach, I like him so much, he does those wonderful "Real Man with Grudging Vulnerability" roles. Mom knows his name. Craig? Ah. Craig T. Nelson. I would never have placed him in a movie with Diane Keaton. Never ever. I'd have called it a total mismatch but it seemed to work. But hell, I was on a plane, it was probably cut to shreds, and they were handing out dinner in the middle of it. Why couldn't they have done that during the other, less interesting movie?

I am my mother's daughter. We talk alike. We laugh alike. We think alike. We like the same style of eyewear, a la Elvis Costello. Or Buddy Holly, depending on your generation. We buy the same types of things even though we don't know the other is doing it. We love movies and British comedy...but then where do you think I got that, hm? We would continue to notice these little things and laugh over them through the entire trip, and I think it was a little disconcerting to Grandma sometimes. 12 years and 3000 miles apart and I grew into the adult I admired most. A lot like her.

Mushy mushy mushy. Mom and Grandma took cat naps; I may have dozed a little but I'm not an airplane sleeper.

Touch down. Pretty clean landing in the middle of a pasture. The Edinburgh airport is surrounded by pasture. Not a little bit of pasture. A lot of pasture. Green rolling hills and evergreens, and white fluffy dots that on closer inspection were sheep. We get off the place last, which makes sense because we'll be the slowest. You'd think we'd be the slowest, but Grandma was up and off! Didn't look back just marched down the aisle, off the place and into the wheelchair. She was three or four people ahead of us before we knew what happened. The took very very good care of us. Rolled us right up through immigration and customs, no waiting, thank you very much, have a nice visit, mum!

Baggage claim was strangely quiet. I looked for "no shouting" signs. Everyone was so...reasonable. Standing quietly waiting for their luggage to appear on the conveyor belt. The baggage was all right side up when it came out. No one crowded. Stepped up, took the bag, pardon me, thanks, and went off. The fellow who was handling the wheelchair for us set the break, got a baggage cart (free, hello) and did a fine job hauling our luggage off the belt and onto the cart. No no, you just stay right there...another fellow joins us and asks fellow number one if he needs a hand, which we do, and now we have two: one fellow for the wheelchair, one fellow for the baggage cart. Then we find George and it's beginning to feel like an entourage. George, Grandma, Mom, Me, Fellow #1, and Fellow #2. We take a quick bio-break, then to the car where the Fellows peel off too fast to leave them a tip. Bye, have a good stay! More about tipping later.

We're flushed and tired and excited and dazed. Right off I tried to get in on the driver's side of the car. I stood there thinking that something is wrong with this picture but I can't put it together. All the other countries in the EU drive on the right-hand side of the road, like the US. But not the UK. Stubborn asses, still on the left side. I suppose there's just too much infrastructure to change it at this late date. I wonder what the history is about driving on the left? Or driving on the right, for that matter.

Drive drive drive Do you want a take-away? We stopped at the BP off the motorway. It's not a highway. It's a motorway. Anything that isn't a motorway is a track. Coffee sounds pretty good. Three Americano's for the three drive drive oh shit where's my wallet? Somewhere between getting the coffee and returning to the car I leave put my wallet somewhere and now I can't find it. It's not in my big green bag, it's not in the back seat, it's not anywhere nearby. While George finds a place to turn around and head back to the BP, I'm thinking. Ok, first the backup plan. I don't have a backup plan so I make one up: Call Kent and have him wire money into Mom's checking account so she can cover my expenses. This actually would work because I had set up bank transfer approvals so that I could wire money to her to pay for the trip. I'll have to call collect and it'll cost a fortune but it's my own damned fault anyway, and I'll have to walk Kent through the process because I don't think he ever logs in to that particular bank account! Back at the BP. There is one on each side of the motorway, with a pedestrian bridge. The pedestrian bridge is disgusting and stinky and dark but George and I cross it and look for the red wallet. It's more of a small-ish red purse, about 6x9 with a yellowish/orange interior. Bagallini. It has a detachable strap which was, at the time, detached.

George and I look everywhere in the BP minimart, around the gas (fuel) pumps, near where we parked. George talks to one of the officers who hang around for safety. We walk back across the stinky, disgusting, dark dank pedestrian bridge back to the car. I'm horribly upset. I have a backup plan, but I'm still devastated. George is beyond devastated, I think. He's a sensitive guy. I open the car door. Oh shit.

I imagine that there's this little applet running in the background, in my brain. When I set something down, this applet runs the "set down-pick up" routine. The routine has a natural break in the middle where it is waiting for the cue to "pick up." Sometimes the cue is conscious, I look over, reach out my hand, pick up the object, the routine finishes, and I consciously know exactly where my pocket book is. Sometimes, the cue is not conscious; something trips the applet so that "pick up" runs anyway, and correctly I might add, the hand reaches out, picks up the object, tucks it under the arm or wherever, although I'm not paying attention at all. Not for a millisecond.

Under the front passenger seat is the corner of my red wallet. To say that we were relieved is an understatement of significant proportion. It takes us a good fifteen or twenty minutes wring ourselves out from our first trauma. The "set down-pick up" applet ran exactly as designed.

I don't think I'm overplaying this too much, really. Back me up, Mom. There was only one other trauma during the trip. Stay tuned.

Next episode: Luss, Loch Lomond, Dunoon, and The Dhailing Lodge, Day 1 Continued.

Lesson #2: They don't have "to-go." Rather, they have "take away."
Lesson #3: If you don't understand, tell them to speak slower.
Lesson #4: Know where your purse/wallet/handbag is at all times. Keep it attached to your body. Not because someone might steal it, but because YOU might set it down and forget it in all the hubbub of getting Mum situated with her coffee and out the door with her walker.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Black Pansy

Scotland Day 0 of 9

All was well until I got to the gate at the Norfolk airport. There was no place. It was late arriving FROM Newark to take we who were waiting TO Newark. Which wouldn't have been a problem except that the late departure ate up all the wiggle room I had between flights. I really thought I was going to miss my flight out. I set up a contingency plan with the folks at the gate so that I could take the next flight out if I missed this one. In fact, I had been removed from the original flight because, based solely on schedule, my Newark flight arrived after the Edinburgh flight departed.

But wait! The Edinburgh flight was also delayed by about thirty minutes. I got to the gate just in time to begin boarding. Mom was sweating bullets. She'd called Kent, who knew he couldn't call me because I did not take my phone with me, but he did tell her that the flight was very late leaving Norfolk. Not much a person can do except hope that it all works out. Which it really did. We all got on the plane together, Grandma and her walker, Mom hanging on to hers and Grandma's carry-ons, and me with my roller bag and shoulder bag. We had lots of STUFF. The flight over was pretty uneventful, but those first few hours before we left the ground in Newark were nuts.

Lesson #1: Avoid Newark/Liberty Airport at all costs.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

That Scotland Trip!!!

It was soooooo fun! My pictures are here. In case the link doesn't work, copy/paste the following into your address bar: I converted them all to jpg and just loaded them up. Like I've been telling everyone, I have a disclaimer: I haven't sharpened, color corrected, tweaked, replaced clouds or sky, removed people, added objects, or otherwise messed with these images at all yet. I'm still cataloging. I tried not to include duplicates but I'm sure I missed a few. I sent Mom three CD's full, and I'm processing photos for Grandma but it's taking longer than I'd hoped. This weekend maybe I can finish that.