Christmas & New Year 2000 - and first impressions.

So a quick drink and we all went out for dinner at a real Scottish Thai restaurant and a look at the Christmas lights in central Glasgow. The bars and restaurants seem to be the main business and all were doing well.
Next day Andrew and Vickie took us on a drive thru to Inverarary via Loch Lomond and a place called Rest And Be Thankful. This is at the top of a pass and is a bit like the Sign of the Kiwi except the only thing there is a Mobile Food Van selling bacon butties, scotch broth (made we were told with NZ lamb) haggis (not the real stuff and we were asked if we wanted breast or leg - they tell the loopys that haggis is a small bird-like animal) and they do a great trade. Then off to Inverarary and a look around, there is a stone bridge and as you go over there is the castle, a real fairy tale castle with turrets and battlements but it was closed till April, typical! In the village, next to the usual souvenir shops is a Whisky Shop - funny that, and all that he sold was whisky and goodies like Christmas cakes soaked in whisky, glasses etc. We all fell over when we saw the bottle from 1919 with the ?7500.00 price tag. A more modest purchase and off to the pub for a drink. The place was brilliant and you all would have loved it. The carpet was a blue and green tartan, wood panels, fire places with nice coal fires blazing and when we walked into the main bar here was the whole of the ceiling covered with branches and Christmas lights. It made the place special and was so simply done. The bar was popular and some of the regulars were real characters, one old codger asked for his drinks and when he paid with a hand full of small change was asked by the barman if he'd been singing again and he replied that yes he'd been busking - in his 70's and with the temp about zero I don't think so but he had a twinkle in his eye or was that just the whisky? Back to a place called Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond for a coffee and a look and back to Glasgow.
As we woke next day to a white Christmas just as we had hoped and did the old throw snow and act silly in the white stuff thing before sitting down to roast turkey and veggies and the odd wine or two. Pud was about 3 hours later as we had of course eaten too much before.
Next day another trip this time to Edinburgh which we all agreed looked much nicer than Glasgow. A stop off on the way to see Stirling castle which like Edinburgh Castle was closed but we will have to go back as it's in very good condition and apparently one to see. Did you ever see Billy Connolly in a Montana Sunday theatre on Deacon Brodie? He was a fine upstanding part of the local Guild and at night robbed the houses of his clients. He was finally caught and hung on the gallows he designed and built. Apparently Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde was based on him but the reason for all this was we stopped at a pub called the Deacon Brodie on the Royal Mile and the sign features a man hanging, very nice. Signs all over the place proclaim Robbie Burns slept here, such and such did this here and so on.
On the way back the temp dropped even further from -2 to at one point -7 and since we have been back in MK they have had -14. We haven't been in anything like that before and can't believe how cold it could be.
Next day after getting the car going and the heater cranked up, de-iced and de-snowed off back down south the Douglas's headed. A uneventful trip apart for a blockage near Liverpool on the motorway, no reason really just everyone slowed down or stopped and then started moving again and then stopped and moved, strange these Poms.
At Birmingham and about 7.30 we bit the bullet and ventured into the town centre and did the old round the round-about twice, down the wrong road, back again, round the round about and more double backs to find ourselves actually where we wanted to be - still not sure how we got in or how we got back either. A nice meal and some photos in Victoria Square and back to MK at 11pm - 12 hrs to get back, 8 to get there.
Well that's our Christmas and now we are back and start back to work on the 2nd though I have done two days work helping to clear out a building. I started at 8am finished at 11 and was paid till 5pm both days, Kath thinks I'm a bit jammy but it all helps to pay the rent.
Friday the BT man came to get the phone going after 3 weeks of waiting. When I rang they said right we will connect you tomorrow and here's your number and account etc and I thought this is amazing, some thing here in this country that can be done straight away. Well the next thing is we will have to have a tech to check that there is nothing wrong with the wiring and we can have someone there on the 8th of Jan. I knew nothing could be that good and after trying the phone for the next 4 days I called back to say we weren't connected and wanted it before the new year, how about the 29th? she said so we are now on and the number is 0044 1908 561920.
BT charge 43p per minute to NZ so we have done the same as Don and Jill and have signed up to a company who only charge 6p. A call we made to NZ cost nearly ?30 ($90) and with Onetel the same call would have cost ?2.00. Well I've amazed Kath with my efforts and will let her take over..

Yes, I am amazed as this is the most Pete has ever written to anybody that I know of. He has outdone himself, which could be an indication of how much he enjoyed our trip to Scotland. We both loved it. The bridge Pete mentioned going into Inverary is a humped bridge and spoiling the whole Scottish loch-land was a set of lights at either end controlling the traffic, both because you couldn't see what was coming from the other side and it was one way. A signpost said "No Stopping on Bridge" but of course, we did because it gave us a fabulous view of Inverary Castle and cameras clicked furiously. As Pete said, the pub (called "The George" as every third pub in the UK is) was a real beauty which you would have enjoyed. Very low-beamed ceiling, uneven floors, some of which were stone, some wooden and some carpeted. Oozing with character.

I thought Luss was quite delightful too, if a tad over commercialised. It is more accessible than Inverary being only about three quarters of an hour drive from Glasgow and right on the shores of Loch Lomond - the largest loch in Scotland. Also, the village has it's own claim to fame for being the location where the TV programme 'Take The High Road' is filmed. Visitors have to park their cars in the car park on the rise overlooking Luss and walk through the village. Andrew & Vickie took us to a cafe down near the pier where we had our first decent cup of coffee since leaving NZ, and the most delicious slice of Carrot Cake. The owner was decked out in full Highland dress but with his fair wispy hair and ruddy complexion, he appeared more like a Viking to me. Great guy though; he chats to every person that comes in and adds more personality to the place.

Another thing Pete didn't mention was our detour home through the Lakes District. We got abit ballsed up at Keswick where we had to turn off but there is such a shortage of signposts throughout England that it was no wonder we found ourselves heading out towards the coast (and Ireland) instead of south into the hills. Keswick is a grey-slate Victorian town with an abundance of B&B places. Because it is on the fringes of the Lakes area, it might be a better place to stay because, as we discovered, the middle area was teeming with bods even in the middle of winter so God knows what it's like in summer. Grasmere, Ambleside and Windermere were all lovely villages but definitely the more sought after resorts for the multitude of hikers, walkers, boaters and aspiring Wordsworths'. So far, they have not allowed mega-luxury hotels to be built anywhere near the place to spoil 19th Century aura.

It is so wonderful to have the phone on at last. The poor BT guy that came to look at our lines on Friday had to climb into the manhole out on the street which was, of course, covered in a couple of inches of snow. We made him a cup of tea to help him thaw out. His daughter had a baby on Christmas Day so he spent the day at the hospital, caught up on sleep on Boxing Day and back to work on the Wednesday - his van didn't like the snow and ice and wouldn't start!

We have a very nice neighbour called Ellen. She has a dog, Tammy, who barks at Pete every morning as he goes out to the car to drive to work. Her legs look too short for her body and I suspect some dachshund (how is it spelt?) mixed with goodness knows what else but she is black with a white star on her chest and white patches on her feet. I popped over to Ellen's place this afternoon to borrow a pie dish; Pete thought I must have been having a cup of tea with her because I was away for ages but she was just so happy to have someone to talk to that it took me awhile to get away. Tammy jumped and sniffed all over me at first then she lay at my feet gazing up at me, having decided I was 'friend' and not 'foe'. Ellen was born in Germany, came to London to do her nursing training, met and married a Cypriot, moved to Cyprus for some years but got out when the "political trouble" started. They have 2 daughters who were privately educated in England; one speaks fluent German and the other fluent Greek. They had to walk away from their restaurant in Cyprus and start again with nothing in London. She seemed delighted to learn she had a couple of NZers living next door.

A good thing we didn't stay in Scotland for Hogmanay; they are expecting blizzards tonight and they have many more inches of snow than we do. The past 3 days, since it snowed here, have been still and freezing but bearable because the snow has stayed soft and powdery. However, the wind has been gradually increasing today and now we can hear it whipping around the corners of the building and whistling through the cracks around doors and windows. Maybe Pete and I wont walk to Don & Jill's after all!

The Dome is closing for ever in an hours time. Over 27,000 people have visited the Dome today. Six million visited in the past year, only half the number they had reckoned on to make it pay. Millions of pounds has been pumped into the White Elephant - Pete and I watched a documentary about it a couple of weeks ago and if all that money had been pumped into the health system instead, how much better spent it would have been.

Bye again.  
Smiley Embarassed