Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Good times I've been having, eh? I mean, how could I forget to tell you about a tick?
Classes are coming along alright here. I'm now used to being addressed as "a Mhegan" which gets pronounced as "Vegan" but with a softish v that's closer to an f-sound than normally. In case you didn't know, in Scottish Gaelic I would say that my name is Megan, but then names can change when you address someone, hence "a Mhegan". That's where the name Hamish comes from - it's actually how you pronounce Seamus (which is Gaelic for James, I believe) when you address him.
Monday, July 30, 2007
I guess I should say that the class went fine; a bit of a review for me in terms of vocabulary but working on my pronunciation and intonation so that's good. This afternoon we're going to learn to talk about the weather, which my teacher tells us is crucial for Gaelic conversations. Again, not so different from the Maritimes. If you can talk about the weather, where you're from and who you're related to, you're set.
There's a girl from Antigonish here (that's in Nova Scotia for my non-Maritime readers), one of the first Maritimers I've run into in a long while. We've already found one person that we know in common, of course. I'm sure there will be more if we keep trying.
People at the college here all know where PEI is. I guess if you're paying attention to Gaelic culture the name crops up, even though there's not many speakers there anymore.
I've caught myself pronouncing things a bit differently since I've gotten back into Scotland. I've been speaking a hybrid English for a while - sort of UK vocabulary with a Canadian accent. Recently I've caught myself saying "gair-age" instead of my usual "grage" (that's for "garage" as it's properly written) and "toe-maw-toe" intead of "ta-mah-tah" (i.e. "tomato"). I'm slipping.
I read in my Scotland guidebook that it's the only country in the world where neither Coke nor Pepsi is the favourite fizzy drink (pop). It's Irn-Bru (pronounced iron brew). Given the sort of "energy" nature of the drink (it has quinine in it, and I notice that it certainly perks me up more than something like Coke would), and it's popularlity amongst kids, it's amazing that I don't find Scottish children as annoying as English children, as they should be unnaturally awake all the time. Even when working in the Coylet restaurant, the majority of the Irn-Bru drinking children weren't too bad, and if they were, it was really their parents' fault for not controlling them.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Being along Loch Eck again made me realize that it's still one of the more beautiful places that I've been to in my life. It's hard to compete with it.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Monday, July 23, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
In the last month, I've had 13 visits from search engine hits. The most common search is just my name, as you can see in the chart below (take that all you other Megan Glovers - who's at the top of Google now?).
I'm guessing number 2 on the list is someone who met me, heard I had a blog but didn't know my last name, but then who knows. I'm puzzled by number 3 on the list - why would you crush snails for money? Who would pay you for such a thing?
The real kicker for me, though, is number 7 - someone searched "dunoon porn". I guess I've used the word "porn" at some time in a post - I won't argue that. I do find it absolutely hilarious (I'm using italics so you know it's hilarious) that someone would search that combination of words. I don't know much about porn, but from what I know, I wouldn't search for porn from Dunoon. If there's any produced there, I have a feeling it's an inferior product to the rest of the market.
I'm really rendered a bit speechless in trying to explain why I find it funny. Dunoon? Porn? Who puts those together?
I actually just searched that combination and I don't see my blog anywhere, so I guess I won't be getting hits that way any more. I'm sure the searcher was disappointed when they got to my site anyway. I may have photos up, but not the kind they were looking for.
Since that was the only job I really considered in London, I'm going to head north tomorrow. I may stop along the way or I may go straight up to Edinburgh; I haven't decided yet.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I called back and was told that I'm in for tomorrow, a "trial" as they put it, to which I'm to wear "trainers and a college shirt if possible" (I assume that means like a sweatshirt).
In the vein of being mysterious, I'm not going to say what the job is just yet.
Other than that, I've just been wandering around town, feeling money evaporate from my wallet. I visited the National Portrait Awards exhibit for free (there were some good portraits - oddly enough at a portrait exhibit). Visited a history of photography in Britain at the National Gallery not for free (and had to pay full price as they wouldn't accept my expiration-date-free student card - the buggers!).
I walked through St. James Park yesterday, the one that is sort of between the Parliment buildings and Buckingham Palace, and in a pond there are many pelicans or storks (are they one and the same?). They are so tame that one waddled up on the bridge (it was funny to watch it walk) and wandered around, letting one man pet it even.
Today I had lunch, after my interview, with Tracey and Shonay, and tonight I'm hopefully meeting up with Patricia from Vaughan Town and some others to show one of the Spanish ladies' friend a good time in London (that's convoluted, I know).
Monday, July 16, 2007
So on the weekend I met up with Tracey and Shonay, two sisters from Australia, and Terry, a Welshman now living in Luton, and we headed out for a trip in a hired car. The car was a Renault Mégane, incidentally - Karen at the Coylet called me Renault for a while when she had trouble remembering my name, and when I meet people from countries on the continent I sometimes refer to that car as a way of helping them pronounce my name (it's how my name ends up getting said in French, afterall).
I should mention here that this was a "mystery" tour - Terry planned it out and gave us an itinerary that looked like this:
Leave Blackfriars 0608 for luton (cheap day single £11.90)
Arrive Luton 0656 - where I will be waiting.
Leave Luton 0700 and head for 1st secret location. (approx 2Hrs 30mins.) -
Catch up on some sleep.
Leave at 1000 for second secret lcation. (approx 1 Hour)
Leave at 1300 for scenic drive to third secret location with stops. (approx
Head for Wales. (approx 2 Hours)
arrive at fourth secret location.
Leave at 1600 for scenic drive through Valleys and Brecon National Park.
Arrive at Final secret location when ever! & crash out for the night.
Set of around 0900 for sixth secret location (approx 2 hours )
Leave at 1200 for final drive and possibly one more stop before arriving
back at Luton before 1600.
Say our goodbyes and reflect.
So our first secret location was Stonehenge. Then we drove into the West Country, stopping in the town of Warminister for breakfast. Then into Somerset where we visited Wookey Hole, where there is a series of caves, some with really big chambers (see the link for stats on the size as I don't remember - they were big to me). There's also a legend of a witch living in the caves, that was explained to us by our hilarious, deadpan-and-monotone tourguide.
Then it was up though Cheddar Gorge - the sun roof came in handy for viewing the cliffs as they're high.
Into southern Wales. First mystery stop there, Caerphilly castle, dating from near 1300. It's tower leans due to being hit at some point.
The town of Caerphilly was pretty, and the sun certainly helped it out.
From Caerphilly we drove up through some of the valleys and Terry told us about the times he'd spent running up those hills loaded down with gear in his military days. Wales is very pretty; I'd like to see more of it.
We stayed the night in Monmouth, ate at a pub and hung out at some others. This is the river running through town (river Wye I think?).
It was a day of cool clouds for me - coming out from dinner I took this one.
Sunday we drove to Tintirn, famous for its Abbey.
As you can see it was not sunny Sunday, but you take what you get. We had breakfast (2nd full English in two days! I like the beans at breakfast thing) at a cool hotel called The Anchor with great staff.
Then it was a drive out of Wales, into the Midlands, where we stopped in Stratford-upon-Avon and wandered around the high street, the market, and the river before heading back to Luton.
I'm still in London a few days more. I have a job interview of sorts tomorrow, so I could be hear longer - I'll let you know about that if it pans out.
Friday, July 13, 2007
All of these hostels were of course clean, had sufficient bathroom facilities, weren't over-crowded - the normal things that I expect in a hostel. However, these ones went above and beyond the normal, so that's why they're on my list.
In London, ads are everywhere - on posts, on taxis, on buses, inside the buses, in subway halls, on the subways. You know how if you're watching a television show and they repeat a commercial a few times, it gets annoying? Well, I've been seeing the same ads repeated over and over again in every Tube station, and I'm getting bored of them after a only a few days. I know many of them by heart now.
I'm staying at The Generator, which is the first hostel I ever stayed at back in June of 2002 (I was so young!). It's still as crap as it was then. It's clean and all, but it's huge (500 people) and feels very industrial, but I think they're trying to go with that theme. It advertises itself as a party hostel, but it's not even a good party hostel, meaning it just doesn't have a friendly, casual atmosphere. It's the kind of place where someone would pull the fire alarm at midnight. We didn't have to go outside because someone turned it off, thankfully since I had enough of standing around outside at night due to fire alarms back when I lived in East Campus Village in Edmonton.
I'm heading on a roadtrip for the weekend tomorrow, if I haven't mentioned it already, with some people from Vaughan Town.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I don't know if it's a new thing or if I just never experienced it when I visited London many a year ago, but on the platform for the Circle and District lines yesterday evening, there was actually some guy (who I couldn't see anywhere) whose job it was to announce the incoming trains and to provide instructions regarding where on the platform you should wait ("plenty of space down to the left of the platform folks"), how to board ("please use all the doors"), when the train was departing ("please step away from the doors as this train is about to depart"), and at one point, he chastised someone like a mother shouting at a child with a shrill "LET GO OF THAT DOOR!"
Small English children, though they can be the kin of the devil, seem very proper and grown up to me. In part it's the accents - they speak the way that only educated adults in Canada speak (and those ones are putitng it on). Then there's the school uniforms, so that you see 10-year-old kids in blazers and ties.
In Hampshire, where I was a few days ago, the people play with their tenses. Stacey told me "when I come to Varna" where I would have said "when I came to Varna", as it was in the past. Two gentleman on a bus discussed how they were not going to give up their seats for some elderly people because "there's kids sat", i.e. there's kids sitting. It's typical to hear "he's stood there" for someone who's currently standing. I even picked it up at one point and referred to a woman as being "sat" at the table.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I'm now in London and feeling my wallet hurt. I'm staying here 3 nights, going on a weekend road trip with some Vaughan Town folks, then probably coming back for a few more days to inflict more financial damage.
In the handbag section, each designer had its own little shop within the larger store. Each shop also had one or two men dressed in expensive suits who were not the salespeople, but security guards for the shop. There was no price tags on any of the bags, but I know from fashion magazines that I've been in functioning cars that cost less than most of those bags. If you want to know the price when you purchase one, you can't afford it.
I've visited an old ship before, in Boston, that was nicknamed Old Ironsides (can't remember the real name). The Warrior is iron-sided as well, but way cooler. The ship in Boston wasn't all kitted out like the ships in Portsmouth are, so yesterday I really saw how the ship functioned and what a sailors life was like. I am really not eloquent enough to describe how wicked it was, so I'll leave it at that and put up some pictures (I have loads of pictures, so more can be made available upon request).
To try to imagine the scale of this deck, notice that in the upper right of the deck there are two people clothed in black standing to the right of that white lifeboat. The ship is huge. It carried a crew of over 700. (Just noticed the photo is slanty again. I think that's my habit of putting most of my weight on my right leg).
A rope ladder, but quite stiff and with wooden crosspieces, so better than any rope ladder I've ever climbed.
Swords hanging on the ceiling and cannon cleaning and packing equipment hanging in behind. There were guns and swords on racks everywhere. The swords were all locked in, unfortunate since I wanted to hold one to see what the weight of it would be like. I looked around at the staff to see if one was dressed as an officer complete with sword, so that I could ask politely if I could just hold his sword for a moment, but no luck. I could tell just from pulling on a sword while it was in the rack that it's heavier than my fencing sabres, but that's sort of obvious given that the blade's a lot thicker.
A fancy way to coil up your rope. I feel ashamed of all my coils, or piles, of rope now.
On to the Victory!
So I finally got to see the famous ship from the battle for which Trafalgar Square is named, and whose admiral, Nelson, has monuments in his honour all around the UK. I didn't know these things prior to visiting the ship, but I finally put it all together. I'd been wondering who this Nelson dude was, and why a square in London had a Spanish name.
I like the colours on this ship. The old sailing ships are incredibly beautiful. The contrast between the Victory and a modern aircraft carrier that was docked nearby was stark to me. Modern naval ships are impressive, but I wouldn't call them beautiful or elegant. The Victory is all three (it's still a commissioned ship if you didn't know, in order to honour Nelson).
Squeeze everything together: this is the sick ward, a dining area, and that's a cannon in the background. Healthy crew lived in similar circumstances, except that there hammocks were not boxy like these. The mugs on the table are made of horn, just as are the powder horns hanging about the ship.
It takes a lot of ropes to rig sails.
Here's some freakin' huge ropes. They were fenced off, so to give you the scale, imagine this: if you took my torso and squeezed it so that it were round insteead of the flattened off shape that I have, it would be about the same circumference as the bottom rope. So about 28 inches, give or take an inch.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
I think I read that that is a lowered level from "critical" last week. It might also be why it took me about 40 minutes to get through immigration at Luton airport even though it was late at night. I think the Non-EU passport holders line should be divided into two: countries the UK likes (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) and countries whose residents slow the line down.
Went on a Portsmouth Harbour tour yesterday, thought this cloud formation was cool.
Here's another interesting cloud behind the Spinnaker Tower. The tower's not as impressively high to me since I've seen the Toronto CN Tower but it's a lot more attractive.
The main bus station and ferry terminal in Portsmouth is called The Hard Interchange, commonly referred to as just "The Hard". Since I've actually been staying in the town of Fareham, I've been taking the bus into town each day. Today when purchasing my return ticket, I tried to make a joke out of it by saying "Hard return" please but the driver gave no indication of getting it. Not that I blame him :)
Stacey and I went for a walk to the town of Wickham last night when it was just getting dark. The sidewalk became a narrow path out between the two towns, and were brushing past bushes and crunching on what I thought were tree cones. On the way back, I heard a crunch and Stacey said "there's another snail!" I was shocked - I'd no idea that I had been crushing snails! I've had snails as pets (working pets, mind you). For a moment, I seriously considered sweeping my path like those monks who don't want to kill anything. The moment passed.
I went to the Historic Dockyards today to visit the HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, but I'll write about that in a separate post because I have a lot to say.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Then again, roads in the rest of the world don't go from being straight to being circles every few hundred yards. Yes, I'm talking about roundabouts again. I am just plum astonished by their frequency.
I have seen road signs that rhyme over here. One is "Twenty's plenty", referring to speed in miles per hour (doesn't quite work in Canadian cities: Fifty's nifty?). Another I saw on the bus from London to Portsmouth and thought it was quite good, but oweing to my mental fatigue I didn't retain it and I'm kicking myself for it.
Maybe I just haven't been around children in Canada much and they are snot-nosed little punks as well, but English children seem to be an ill-behaved lot. In the centre of Portsmouth, on the high street, my bus drove by two young boys who appeared to be opening packets of sugar and sprinkling the contents over the bottoms of their bicycles, which were overturned on the sidewalk. They were then tossing the papers on the ground. I could not figure out any purpose to it. I've had children crawl over me while their parents were seemingly powerless to stop them. English parents in particular always seem to be shouting at their children in shrill voices.
While waiting for a lift from Stacey on Saturday, three boys who could not be much more than 10 years old each sat near me and one expertly rolled a cigarette. I was stunned. Upon hearing my accent, the boys asked me if I was American, and then asked me to say "potato chips". They seemed to find how I say it funny.
I met two Brummies (fellows from Birmingham) for the first time the other night. Stacey was making fun of their accents, as most English people will tell you that they dislike the Brummie accent the most, but I thought it was pleasant. It reminded me of the Beatles, even though I knew they weren't Scousers (Liverpuddlians). They also said "pop" like me for things like Coke, instead of "fizzy drink" so that made them ok in my books.
England sure does pack a lot of accents into a small country. Down here I find that people talk as though they are reluctant to let their lips touch each other, so it's an open-mouthed form of speech. Many of the women speak in a tone that at first made me think that I was annoying them but I now realize that it is just the accent. It is still a little disconcerting as it feeds into my paranoia about offending anyone.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
And the food's just about done and now the sun's coming out. Stacey says the weathers "taking the piss out of her".
More photos should be coming for my posts for the last month, since I've downloaded my photos to Stacey's computer and will be uploading them as I get a chance. I'll let you all know.
That big circle in eastern Canada is centred around Charlottetown because I get the most hits from there.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
So if you have my 07787 mobile number, I can no longer be reached at that number. I'm using my old 07726 number. If you need that number, just drop me an e-mail or a comment.
At the first of the week, I was unsure as to whether I would enjoy the week as much as I did the first one. In the end, I think I did enjoy it as much, although it is hard to compare as the people are so different from one week to another.
In Madrid prior to my departure was Pride week, and the parade was last Saturday. Given that my hostel was at the parade end (there are sort of two parades - a political one in the afternoon and then a party one in the evening into the night) - there wasn't much point in trying to sleep while the parade was on anyway, so I wandered around the streets with some girls from my hostel. I have never seen anything like it. I was told that there was something on the order of a million people in the street. There were gay people who had travelled for the event but there were also locals of all ages and sexual orientation. Old ladies sitting on the side of the street watching, people out with their kids. It was just a massive party in the streets. Everyone was friendly - people were drinking, but I didn't see any of the aggression that often accompanies drinking.
For a country girl like me, it was amazing just to see that many people having a party. To top it off with the acceptance of homosexuals that was present was even more amazing - there's many places in the world where that kind of event couldn't happen without protest.