Day 1: Mostly travel, art show set up, sleeping to recover, and a bit of local walking. So far, Scotland is much cooler than Florida (around 49 degrees when I got here, much too cold for my taste) and very drizzly. It's cloudy a lot of the time so far.
I don't know how the art is doing. I have had comments on the dragon and hope he sells. The show just opened this afternoon -- much later than I had anticipated. I went to go and check on sales and the show had already closed. I do my docent tours in the morning and Saturday morning. I'm doing a supernatural theme, and I've found works that will work with that theme.
Day 2: I did get to the Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis today. I did take a bus tour of the city, and I also saw the oldest house in Glasgow. I must say, it's a nice place but Rome still has my heart. Scotland has very nice people, but it is expensive and much of Glasgow is much younger than I thought it would be.
I am most upset with my Cingular wireless service. After three phone calls and speaking to a customer service rep in the store, all assuring me that my phone would work here, it doesn't work at all! I am disgusted.
I did see some folks that I know from the US who commuted here, too. A lot of the folks here are US...so that's good. And so far, for the most part, I can understand folks even with the thick accent. There are a few words that get confused ("It's a 'alf pas sex" It's a half past six) and the measurements are different.
Already I have found three coins while I've been here, the best being a 2 pound coin. I have kept all three, of course. My memento from this trip!
I have not seen a single pug. Very sad...at least Italy greeted me on the first day with that...
And, I must say that this place is not that far off from the US. Right now, there is a 600% raise in racial profiling and hatred since the bombings. Their top stories are about a 'black' man who was axed to death by two white youths and a child who was killed by an air pellet gun by a man who was hopped up on drugs. The economy is sluggish so they dropped interest rates by a quarter percent, too. It's a miniature version of the US with better accents. And, they actually mix art and architecture -- some of the buildings are beautiful!
I bounce between the convention and touring. Today I saw the Glasgow Cathedral, the St. Mungo Art and Religion Museum (I loved that! Small but informative), the Necropolis (a huge cemetery), the oldest building in Scotland, and did a bus tour. I came back to the convention and observed a philosophical debate on sandwiches.
In another panel I met the astronomer of the Vatican! I also got him to sign my convention book. That was a thrill! There was an interesting discussion on the 'old' institutes -- academics, religion, military, government. Even here in the UK academics are on short contracts; the academic representative noted that the 'old university' is dying here, too.
The discussion changed to transformation of the roles of religion; nowadays people are taking the jobs of clergy as a job, not a life's vocation. Also, Rome used to send folks out to countries for jobs; now they pull people in to fill spots. Most interesting.
Day 3: Checked the art show this morning. Not many bids up yet...only 4 that I saw and all on other people's stuff. (Understand that there are several hundred works in there). I did my tour, but only a few were on it, and I didn't think it was well advertised at all.
I have managed to find another couple of coins -- another 2 £ and a 1 pence piece. So, at least Scotland is opening up there. As of yet, though, there is not a pug in site.
I went to the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art today. It's free of charge, with a library downstairs. I do like how they see museums. Most of them are open and free to the public. They believe that museums should not be for just a few people but for everyone. THAT was heart warming. I had a really good tour guide this morning and she was very enthusiastic on how the people of Glasgow were working together to promote the arts of all sorts. They even have an open door day in which they open their doors for 2 days a year for folks to come in and talk. (This is not just the arts, but all businesses).
I do like the building structures very much. They are pleasant to look at. This is also the home of MacKintosh, an artist from the early 20th century who totally shook up the art world. He was into Art Nuevo; he and his wife were quite active.
Jet lag is starting to catch up with me for sure. It helps that today the sun is out. I got caught in a downpour while walking this morning, though. COOOOLD stuff that rain is. Temps are in the 60's -- ugh. If it was 15 degrees higher, I'd be delighted. However, I learned that it rains 2/3rds (plus) of the year in Scotland. Hm, maybe that is why the Starks migrated over to the new world?
Went to the Chelsey awards for the artists. They were 45 minutes late and technologically messed up. (Computer wouldn't work). I was a bit disappointed, but did manage to see the awards. A first for me, I think.
Planning on Edinburgh in the morning.
Day 4: I have been finding many coins in the area. Another 2 pound piece and several 1, 5 and 10 pence pieces. I'm currently in Edinburgh, where I've found 3 coins. My friend, Amy, has graciously played hostess and tour guide today.
I took the train to get here. The train station was a bit confusing. I was told I could catch the train at the Central Station but was actually supposed to go 5 blocks down to the Queens Street Station. After some tense walking, and a couple of sweet Scotsmen who gave directions, I found the station. The trains here are marvelous. They are clean, neat, and new. They run so smoothly! And they were nice and toasty warm. I had a hard time trying to stay awake on the 45-minute trip here.
I saw some of the Scottish hillside, which is beautiful! We went past rolling fields of green and sheep herds.
In Edinburgh we went to the castle, but couldn't get in. There was a huge festival here (the Fringe festival) and the place was packed. I got a snapshot from the courtyard, though.
We saw the National Gallery here, which had some beautiful works, then the St. Giles Cathedral which was beautiful (and haunted!). There I got my picture with a statue of John Knox (I told you I'd find him!) the founder of Protestantism in Scotland (Presbyterianism). That was awesome.
We visited the statue and grave of Greyfriars Bobby, the dog. Story has it that after his master died Bobby came to the spot where they met daily for the rest of his life. A second story says that his master died when he was but a pup. He was so dedicated that he came to sleep on his master's grave daily, until he, too, died. The dog died at the age of 16...still waiting for his master to meet up with him again. A sweet twist to the story says that after Bobby died, his ghost appeared to walk along side his master's for one last step into eternity.
We went into the Greyfriars Church cemetery, which is the home of a famous poltergeist. After walking through it, we went for a ghost tour of the vaults under Scotland. I had hoped to go into Mary's Close but they said the tours were closed for today (which did, admittedly, irk me).
The vault tours proved interesting. This is the place where people go in and come out with bites, scratches, and blisters. Admittedly, I do have a sore spot in the top of my head that wasn't there when I went in. We shall see. I'll have to review the tape, 35 mm, and digital pictures when I get home, though eyeballing the digital I see some orbs. Hmm.
I met a Scottish paranormal investigator and gave her the SPIRITS site; she's going to send her site to me. AND I got some groovy books on ghosts in Scotland and the poltergeist case.
Amy and I did eat lunch. I tried VEGETARIAN haggis, very yummy. At the end of the ghost tour, we were given a free shot of whisky. While I am a non-drinker, I was told to try the whiskey in Scotland. I tasted just the very top of the shot (too bad I couldn't give the rest to someone who likes it). Oddly, it reminds me of my mother's fruitcake. HMMMMmmm.........
We also saw some of the "Fringe" art show that was there. There were a lot of performing artists which was different.
Day 5: Today I am happy to report that I went into the art show to check on it this morning. I was fully prepped to find no bids. I am delighted to say that I have at least two works with bids on them. I'm so thrilled! However, since I leave early in the morning I have to take down today between 5 and 6, so I guess today is pretty shot. Oh well. At least I got the two pieces and I can now say that I am an internationally sold artist.
Today I went out and checked on the Cathedral again (I wanted to get a book on Glasgow's patron saint, Mungo, but, alas, the gift shop was closed). However, they had a wonderful organ concert going so I did listen to it for a while (and got a recording of it). I went over to the Providence Lordship house and went inside for the tour. It's the oldest house in Glasgow dating from the Middle Ages/early Renaissance. I did try to find Cathedral House Hotel, said to be haunted, but had no luck with that. If I ever come back here again, though, that's where I'm staying. Why not go for the haunted areas?
This afternoon I went to the People's Palace. It was lovely...and I finally got some decent things related to the tenant lots, World War I and World War II, to talk about for Humanities II.
Overall, Scotland is nice. However, it's no Italy. I guess part of the difference is that it has many of the same problems the US has; with the lack of a strong language barrier I am reminded of that. Today's paper had an article in it about an old man who was killed by a gang when he tried to stop them from beating up another kid. This just made me so very sad. While it is also an old place nothing here dates back that far. It's also fairly cold here...and Italy was very Florida-like.
The good thing about this area is that at least they acknowledge ghosts! Tried to find a ghost tour in Rome and they looked at me like I was nuts. Here, they do have a few.
My pug quest is about at an end. Not a one here. At least I have my surrogate pug, Homer, which helps out considerably.
Sunday night I went to see the Hugo Awards. It was a neat ceremony, the first I'd seen. I'm happy to say that we actually beat the record for the ceremony with 1 hour and 30 minutes. The show was great and the awards lovely. It was certainly worth seeing.
Day 6: This was not the best return trip. I got up at 5 a.m. in Glasgow (around midnight Florida time). Got packed, got to the airport. Plane left on time. However, one family of true idiots (11 of them; I knew we were in for it when they started to push other people around so they could have seats to themselves) brought a very elderly and very frail old woman on the plane with them. Granny wasn't doing well at the terminal; she was ashen, quiet, had to lie down on the chairs. Family didn't seem to pay that much attention to her. Continental should NOT have taken her on the flight. During our trip over, she went into a diabetic semi-coma! The family couldn't find her insulin kit and Continental was totally unprepared for what to do. They called for medical personnel (fortunately, there were two nurses there) and then the SHUNTED the flight over to Iceland. Once we landed, they had emergency personnel come into the plane and remove the woman. Three of her relatives went with. Admittedly, I do not mind stopping to save her life. That is worth the time and hassles afterwards. However, I am furious with the family, who had no right to cart a woman around in such frail health and who was not prepped to handle something that they KNEW she had (diabetes).
We landed at 2:55. I saw the plane I was to take to get home through the window. However, I had to go through the passport counter (and they actually pulled the two men out of line in front of me, bagged their passports and lead them away. I have NO idea what that meant but it didn't make me feel comfortable), reclaim my bags, and get through customs. Continental told us in the air that there would be someone there to help us find connecting flights when we got off the plane. Well, they were only there for the FIRST class travelers. The rest of us 'schmucks' were told to go to the service counter. I waited in line for an hour, had to recheck my bag, and listened to more horror stories concerning the airline (the woman next to me in the plane missed the only flight to her destination, had to spend the night; others had their flights cancelled and were stuck there for the night).
I, foolishly, was hopeful when they said I'd be on the 6:55 p.m. flight home. I found the gate. They changed the gate. Then the plane came in. Then they changed the time --there was no flight crew. The plane would go at 9 p.m. Be back at the gate at 8:30 to board. Walked the airport. Came back at 7:45. No one there: yep, they changed the gate again. Found the new gate. Sat there for an hour. They changed the gate again. Found THIS new gate...and the new flight time: 10:51 p.m. Now it was that there was no flight crew, bad weather, or no plane, depending on who you talked to. Found other distraught families who had been delayed due to Continental's fault (one was in a plane for an hour because they couldn't get a gate, and when they finally did they sat for 30 minutes because there was no one to let them IN the gate, and that's just one example). Complained to airline officials, who couldn't care less. One woman was so distraught because they changed her gate so often that she asked the people at my counter to check the computer. The men IGNORED her. She began to cry and asked them if that is how they would treat their mother. One man answered her that his mother "would listen to instructions" -- he wanted to send her back to the gate she just came from when THAT gate sent her back to the one I was at. Lovely.
Once we boarded the plane, it was another 30 minutes late in leaving. We finally took off around 11:15 p.m. I got in to Tampa at 2:30 a.m. (I was supposed to be home at 6 p.m. the day before). For this, I could have stayed an extra day in Scotland, taken my time packing, and gotten some sleep.
On the way home, Mom broke the news to me: a dog down the street had attacked Dovie, her 11-year-old puggess. He bit her on her bad leg and tried to drag her under the fence. Mom got her away, and got her home. She treated the wounds (just puncture marks). When she got home that evening, Dovie appeared to have a sore under her "arm" that was oozing. Mom took her to the vet -- the whole leg abscessed. She's on antibiotics, but what a horrible experience for this sweet pug who was born with birth defects (and is pretty much 95-99% blind) to go through.
And, much to my great and utter distress, my rat, Khufu, died Saturday. I am so upset that I was not here for him! Mom did a great job taking care of him, but evidentially it was his heart. He suddenly climbed up the wall of his cage and bit the bars, then ceased moving entirely. And that was it. She buried him for me. I know to some of you he may think that he is just a rat, but to me he was a very special boy. I am so saddened by his loss right now. I knew he might not make it, but I hoped to have more time with him.
Lastly, in unpacking I discovered that my bag was searched by the airport...and as I was unpacking it, Odyssey the pug, while trying to get at some of the doughnuts that the airport sent home, pulled my 35 mm camera off the bed. This is the only camera that has lasted for me (I've had it 11 years; all my other cameras break within 1 - 2 years time). It's my ghost hunting and travel camera. I'm not sure if it can be repaired, so that's another expense to add to my collection.
My art did make it home, with some damage to one star (which I think I can repair). I also got invited to participate in another art show locally at the end of August. And one person, who saw me walking with my dragon, commented that it was "sweet" a good thing. At least I got positive feedback on it.
So, that is it. I've been up for 29 hours now (traveling for about 23) and am starting to wind down. I wanted to get my log done, unpack, and get reorganized. I'll crash out tonight, I'm sure.
I did contact Cingular about their lack of service. It took 3 phone calls and 5 levels of management, but they agreed to reimburse me my $65 for the land phone calls I had to make because their phone didn't work. I also called Continental. While their representative was nice, she also claimed that it was "the weather" that caused all problems. However, she did take responsibility for the poor customer service and added my comments to their database. I don't think I will travel with them again, however.
More factoids to come.
Submitted by Brandy B. Stark, the weary traveler.