Matlock, England and Dundee, Scotland
I had exactly 24 hours with my relatives, whom I’d never met before, and it was a busy day. I was driven around the local area, and given a commentary on my relatives (we’re talking about five generations ago mind you) and where they’d been born, grew up, lived and died. It was interesting observing the family dynamics of these cousins of my Grandpa’s, the three of whom were in their 60s and 70s.
I was given the royal treatment, including large meals and a feather mattress and pillow to sleep on. I got through the meal by sampling only a little of everything, yet the bed was another matter. It was a nice gesture, however it was the most uncomfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on. Even worse than a water bed. You sunk into it and it didn’t move easily, so I felt trapped. Add to that the fact I’m allergic to feather bedding, and I was in for a long night. I ended up swapping the pillow for a cushion just so I didn’t have to explain my potential swollen red eyes in the morning.
My Grandpa had visited these same relatives 60 years ago on his European trip, and they were all keen on the idea that he might return again soon. I’ve been encouraging him to go back for some years now, and now he’s beaten his previous fear of flying it just may well be a possibility.
I spent six and a half hours on a bus from Manchester to Edinburgh to stay with my Scottish friend Lynsey for the last leg of my three months travelling. Lyns and I met in Far North Queensland in 2004, and she has been back to Australia and to New Zealand with me since, so it was about time I went to visit her homeland.
The UK is quite small, yet I’d certainly spent a fair amount of time on buses to get around. I guess I’d just fly if I was back home, yet I didn’t consider it in England and Scotland since everyone said it was so small. Yes, it’s smaller than AU, but consider flying if you’re heading there yourself.
I arrived in Edinburgh at 7.30am and then had to get on a train for an hour to meet Lyns in Dundee. I was tired and cranky from the lack of sleep on the overnight bus, and wasn’t looking forward to another train trip. Thankfully Lyns had alerted me to a sale on train tickets weeks before and I’d grabbed one – saving me pounds in the process. I was continually astounded at the ridiculous cost of public transport in the UK, it was a huge rip off.
Lyns met me at Dundee and we yabbered away for a few hours before heading out to explore some local areas. One woman in an art gallery tried to set me up with her son who was currently in AU – and although I love the Scottish accent I’d rather meet someone first before committing to marry them!
I met Lynsey’s boyfriend Craig, and was introduced to Haggis for dinner. Believe it or not, haggis is actually quite tasty. I didn’t look at the ingredients until after I’d eaten, and it’s basically a whole pig minced up and mixed with barley and some spices. Yum! We headed off on a whiskey distillery tour the following day, with both Craig and I fans of the stuff. I discovered that in Scotland it’s not called Scotch, only whiskey, and it must be drunk on the rocks (only with ice in the glass) and never mixed with coke like we so often do at home.
Edinburgh and St Andrews
One major draw card of Edinburgh for me was the Military Tattoo held every year in August. I’d managed to get tickets as a belated birthday present for me and Lyns, and we spent the day wandering around the city before the show. We went to a few free comedy shows (similar to the Comedy Festival in Melbourne) and one Lyns picked was absolutely awful. The guy was horribly pathetic and I wanted to leave, but she wouldn’t because we were sitting in the front row. The guy was really, really bad, and I was tired, and with the warmth of the venue I fell asleep. Woke up at the end of his show when everyone was clapping – clapping I believe because it was over. The Tattoo was great, a lot of Scottish music and bagpipes, but also a light show on the side of the Edinburgh Castle, music, comedy, dance and fireworks to top it all off. Except for the rain that threatened the show all night it was pretty good.
I learnt about the Suffragettes while I was in Scotland. Suffragettes was a term for the move for women to be allowed to vote. Founded in 1897 by Millicent Fawcett, “suffrage” literally means means the right to vote and the movement started with that wish. Beginning as a series of peaceful protests, Fawcett’s most powerful arguments were that since women had to pay taxes like men did, they should have the same rights as men, and that wealthy mistresses of large manors and estates employed gardeners, workmen and labourers who could vote, but the women themselves could not vote, regardless of their wealth. Eventually the movement turned to violence, burning down churches, vandalism, interrupting Parliament and political meetings, refused to pay taxes, fire bombed Politicians houses and golf courses.
The Suffragettes were happy to go to prison, where they would go on hunger strikes and refuse to eat. The government was concerned that they might die in prison thus giving the movement martyrs. Prison governors were ordered to force feed the Suffragettes but this caused a public outcry as force feeding was traditionally used to feed lunatics as opposed to what were mostly educated women. In June 1913 one Suffragette, Emily Davison, was killed when she threw herself under the King’s horse at a Derby. The movement was interrupted by WW1, but in 1918 the Representation of the People Act gave women of property over the age of 30 the right to vote – not all women, but it was a major start. (Info from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/suffragettes.htm).
I was hugely interested in this movement, and concluded I certainly would have been a Suffragette myself had I been around in those days. Can you imagine me NOT saying or doing anything in regards to women’s rights?! I think not.
We visited Anstruther, a little village reputed to have the best fish and chips in Scotland. I’d been taken to a few of these ‘best’ fish and chip shops in the UK, and I’m sorry to tell you, but we have better fish and chips in Australia. As I found with a lot of food throughout the whole of Europe, we have as good or better food than most countries over there. In fact, Australia is pretty good on all fronts, and I was beginning to miss home.
So, we got to the fish and chip shop, and I’d already clued on by now that most of everything sold in these shops is deep fried, but I thought I’d surely find something that was not soaked and cooked in oil. Boy, was I wrong. I ordered fish cakes, thinking they’d only be cooked on the grill. WRONG – they were also deep fried. I watched the cooks and when I saw what looked like fish cakes heading for the deep fryer I asked if I was correct. Well, surprise, surprise, yes they were also deep fried. “Is anything in this shop NOT fried?” I enquired, only to be looked at like I had two heads and answered with a resounding “No”. I cancelled my order and went without. I kid you not, the Scots fry everything. Fish and chips, pizza, kebabs, Mars bars, white pudding, black pudding – absolutely everything. I was disgusted and seriously craving some healthy food.
We went to a Rugby game and saw Scotland play Italy. I can’t even remember the game except it was the warmest and sunniest day in Scotland and that was the most exciting part of the whole day.. A visit to the pub afterwards was interesting, packed with loud Scots (Scotland must of won now I think about it) drinking and reliving the game, play for play. I must say I was grateful for the relatively quiet train ride home – after yet another visit to a Fish and Chip (aka Deep Fry) shop. On the train home I smelt cigarette smoke and looked down the aisle to see a guy puffing away in the middle of the carriage. I got up to speak to him and a slight look of concern passed over Lynsey’s face. She knows how much I hate the smell of cigarettes, and I think she may have been worried about the outcome of our encounter. I hate the stink and was furious that this guy thought nothing of inflicting his vile smelling fumes on the rest of us on the train. I figured no one else would have the balls to say anything, so I was going to. He obviously knew he shouldn’t be smoking because as I approached he asked as much and I told him what I thought whilst he stubbed the cigarette out.
I was treated to a lovely roast lunch with cheesecake for dessert at Lynsey’s mum and dad’s place two days before I flew home. Her parents are really nice, and I got to meet her much talked about dog – Beck, who, I’ll admit, is a nice dog. I spent half a day in St Andrews, mostly to give myself and Lyns a break from each other, and to collect a golf ball for a friend at home who is an avid fan of the (I think boring) game. I managed to find two nice brandy glasses I bought for myself in St Andrews, to compliment the yummy brandy I’d bought in Wales.