Tuesday, September 26, 2006

To Loch Eck!

I've accepted the job I was offered at the Coylet Inn on Loch Eck in Argyll-shire which is about 15 km outside of the town of Dunoon. And yes, I'm aware of what the Campbells from Argyll did to the MacDonalds at Glencoe ;)

If you want to see where the Coylet Inn is, check out here which shows it in relation to Dunoon and Glasgow.

I'm going to Glasgow by train this evening and staying at a hostel there. Then tomorrow morning I'm taking the train to Gourock, and then the ferry across to Dunoon where someone from the inn is going to pick me up.

Not sure on what my internet situation will be when I get there, so I may not be able to post for a while.

Thanks for the comment Wyatt, and if anyone else wants to leave messages for me you can post them here or you can email me at gmail.com by using my firstname.lastname

Monday, September 25, 2006

I've got a 24-hour pass to the internet cafe...

... so I'm updating again. I was feeling a bit run down after phoning a bunch of places for work today and only speaking to one. I thought some playing around on the internet and checking out job sites might help me, which it seems to have. And I'm determined to make the most of my internet time.

Also, I was just offered a job as a General Assistant at the Coyet Inn in Dunoon, which is in the Argyll region. I had thought I wasn't going to hear from them because the woman I had spoken to said she would call me back in the afternoon and it was 7pm before I got the call. When I called about it earlier today I was told that the live-in accommodation would be in a 3-bedroom "caravan". I assume that means a trailer, or what would often be called a mobile home. Anyway, when the woman phoned back to offer me the job, she said that I would be housed in the hotel, perhaps because the caravan is full, I'm not sure. I hadn't had a chance to look at the Inn's website before she called, and so I asked her if I could let her know tomorrow if I wanted to take the job and she said that's alright. I've e-mailed a few other places that I saw advertised on www.gumtree.com (they didn't provide phone numbers) so I would like to wait to hear from them so that I have some choice. But looking at the website of the Coylet Inn it looks like a pretty nice place, and very small, so it would seem to be a good place to work. Hopefully if I do decide to take it the job will be still there. I'll check my e-mail in the morning, and if there's no word from anyone else before noon I'm taking that job.

It's raining again this evening, pretty steady. I still haven't broken down and bought an umbrella yet, mostly because I don't want to have to carry it.

I'm going to throw in some links to pictures of things that I think are neat around Edinburgh.

The street that this internet cafe is on is Rose Street (pronounced "Row Street" for some reason). It is a pedestrian street made of brick, and at various intervals along it their are mosaics made of pebbles, depicting roses I would imagine. I found these really cool the first time I was to Edinburgh, and four years later I still find them cool.

The Princes Street Gardens surround the train tracks although you can't see the tracks very well unless you're up close because they're hidden by trees. The gardens are also very low compared to the surrounding streets, and I can't find just one picture that depicts how low they really are very well so I'll just direct you to this site where there are many pictures if you scroll down to the bottom.

There's also loads of nice old buildings around. The link above for www.stuckonscotland.co.uk has pictures of stuff all over Edinburgh, and another good site for pictures is www.undiscoveredscotland.com.

I've already mentioned my fondness for the closes, although since I haven't had to live along one and have my sunlight mostly blocked out I guess my fondness for them is very unimportant and cerebral. I already posted a link to one picture and you can find loads of others if you do a Google image search for "Edinburgh close".

The keyboard layout here is actually different than in Canada. For starters, the difference that's giving me the most trouble is that the SHIFT key is half it's usual size on the left-hand-side of the keyboard, and that's the SHIFT that I always use. I've somewhat adjusted to it, but maybe I will try to use the right-hand SHIFT key some as well. The ENTER or RETURN key is not the full L-shape it is back home which means that when I go to hit it I often hit the # and ~ key which is in its place. The £ is taking up SHIFT-3 which is where # is back home. The " is made by SHIFT-2, which means that the @ is not where I am accustomed to but is done by SHIFT-'. So those two basically switched places. If there's any other differences I haven't noticed them yet as those are the only ones that have been messing up my touch-typing.

I'm actually getting tired already (at 8:30pm), so I think I'll head back to the hostel.

Brief Update and Trip to Roslin

So I checked up on the science event manager job and it won't start until middle of November and from the management skills it requires I'm not likely to get it. I'm going to apply for it anyway, but I'm going to look for some other work anyway since middle of November is a long way off. I'm phoning and e-mailing around about live-in jobs at some small hotels here-and-there. I think I'm going to go to Glasgow tomorrow mostly for a change of scenery and that will put me closer to any of the jobs I'm looking at anyway.

I went to the village of Roslin yesterday to see Rosslyn Chapel, which is described by some as a gothic building but then by others as not conforming to any architectural label. It was built starting around 1446 by the Prince of Orkney and it is very ornate, with carvings on every surface imaginable. The most famous is the Prentice Pillar, which even gained a mention in the DaVinci Code as the chapel is the location the protagonists end up in at the end of the book. Since it was mentioned in that book the number of visitors to the chapel has shot up, and the tour guide joked about it by pointing out the carving of one head as being Dan Brown's.

I managed to spot the engravings of cacti on one archway; there is supposedly also engravings of corn as well (which I didn't manage to spot) and these images are considered as indication that the Norse had landed in North America before Columbus (the Prince of Orkney would have had some connections to Norway since it was a region controlled by them).

Anyway, the chapel was quite pretty, but did smell a bit musty and damp, which can be explained by the fact that there's been a problem with algae growing on the ceiling of it and so there is a large metal canopy over the chapel to protect it from the rain so that it can dry out.

It rained quite a few times yesterday, the first time it's done that since I got here other than a light shower one evening. Today is a little overcast and it must have rained overnight since the park benches are wet.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

When will I see your like again?

The title comes from the song "Flower of Scotland" which I have heard played on the bagpipes around town at least twice every day since I got here. So it's been stuck in my head often.

Correction from my last post: Edinburgh's New Town was built starting around 1780, not in the 1600's. They had to drain the loch at the base of the castle rock and then build the bridges across that sunken area later on.

What follows are my assorted thoughts on Edinburgh and Scotland. I'm including some links to photos of what I'm talking about since I haven't found an internet place where I can hook up my camera yet.

It is really hilly around the Old Town. My hips and upper legs have been aching slightly just from walking around ever since I got here. Then I went and climbed up Arthur's Seat, a 800-some-foot inactive volcano that is east of the Old Town, part of the park that surrounds Holyrood Palace (the royal residence in the city). After that, my hips have been *really* aching. I imagine I'm getting in better shape from it. The rocks at the top of Arthur's Seat were very dark and slippy, so I assume that they're volcanic since I've never seen any before.

A neat aspect of the streets in the Old Town is that they're frequently linked to other streets through alleys called "closes", although the closes don't always cut all the way through a block. Every close has a name posted on it, as does every set of stairs. Closes generally have stairs owing to the hilly nature of the town, but they are closed in by buildings on the sides and sometimes overhead. Some of the closes are quite narrow - the width of a narrow hall - whereas others are much wider with restaurant and store fronts along them, as well as residences. The close that forms one side of the hostel that I'm staying at is called "Fleshmarket Close" which to me conjures up images of prostitutes lining up along it at night. I don't know if that was how it got its name - perhaps butchers once sold their wares along it.

People in town seem to get drunk earlier in the evening than do folks back home. By 8 or 9pm I have seen hordes of drunk people stumbling about the streets talking loudly. I think this earliness may have to do with the bars generally closing earlier than at home, with the exception of some night clubs. In Charlottetown people would usually only be starting their drinking at 8 or 9 pm and would be doing it at home to save money before heading to the bars at 11-12pm. It seems here that folks here don't do the drinking-at-home-thing first.

Girls in town have been wearing huge winter scarves the past few days. Yesterday it was fairly sunny and about 18 degrees I'd guess. Today it's rainy so it feels a bit chillier, but I was fine outside with a small t-shirt, a sweater, and a light rainjacket. I guess the girls are wearing the scarves for style, not warmth, but they must be cooking under them. If I were to wear a scarf for style at this time of year, it's be a thin, light one like you see on girls in Canada. I wouldn't wear one of the bulky scarves the Edinburgh girls are wearing unless it was freezing or below.

I've now adapted to trafic being on the opposite side of the road, enough that I always look right first when crossing the street. However, I still can't help but instinctively look left immediately after that as I start to cross the street. Cars with only one person in them still look bizarre to me though, because it appears as though the car is driving itself with a person in the passenger seat.

In my head I am often hearing my thoughts in some sort of Scottish-like accent. I've been immediately correcting it in my head to sound like my own accent. I don't want to end up sounding like one fella from Canada that I met (who's been over here for over a year) that alternately sounds sort of Scottish or sort of Australian or sort of Canadian. I'm allowing myself to use words like "mobile phone" instead of "cell phone" or "biscuits" instead of cookies, but I'm trying to limit that to when I talk to locals.

And I think I'm now figured out how to make the £-sign quickly by hand. It was stumping me a bit at first. It's so fancy compared to the $-sign.

Currency here is issued by actual banks, not like by the Bank of Canada which is a bank that you can't have an account at. I've seen Scottish bills that have been issued by Clydesdale Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland. It's RBS where I've set up my account, so they're "normal" banks.

Friday, September 22, 2006


I'm writing this from the really big internet cafe in the New Town of Edinburgh; "new" referring to the 1600's, if I remember correctly.

I got into town yesterday afternoon at about 3pm. I wrote last time that my flight left Halifax at around 8pm and that I was taking the shuttle over. That was before I looked at my itinerary again on Tuesday and realized that 22:35 did not refer to 8:35pm but to 10:35pm. If I took the shuttle I would get to the airport at 3:30pm and have 7 hours to wait which would have sucked. So instead I drove my truck over with my father and my uncle and then they drove it back from the airport to PEI. That way I only had to wait around for about 2.5 hours.

I spent yesterday afternoon just trucking around town a bit, trying to wear myself out so that I would certainly sleep well (even though I was quite tired from not sleeping much on my overnight flight - I nearly fell asleep on my feet during the 45 minutes that I had to wait in line at immigration in London). That didn't seem to work - I got to bed around 11pm here but I guess my body still knew that it was 7pm and so I couldn't manage to sleep for ages. The loud screaming Scottish guys who had a fight outside my room on the street at 1 am didn't help any either although it was funny to listen to. I haven't felt too worse for the wear today, and I imagine I'll sleep at a normal time tonight.

I did my orientation session this morning and applied for a bank account that should be ready in a few days. I'm going to look into getting a cell phone tomorrow, and since it's the weekend I think I'll just do some touring around Edinburgh figure out where I'm going on Monday. I'm still keen on the Highlands, but I also saw an advertisement for a job in Edinburgh as an event organizer for the Edinburgh International Science Festival, so I've written an e-mail to get more info on that and I'll wait to see what it's all about.

Anyway, just about out of time, so later.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Here goes nothin'

Well, the series of posts I mentioned last time didn't materialize, which is probably for the best anyway as I had nothing too substantial to say.

I'm nearing my departure day now. I have a few more boxes to pack to store stuff that's currently in my room, and then I have to play a bit of a game of real-life Tetris in stacking them in the basement. Actually, all my stuff doesn't take up too much space once it's put in Rubbermaid Roughneck totes that stack nicely.

Then I have to pack my backpack and hopefully everything I want to take will fit in it. If not I'll just leave behind some of the clothes that are in my "maybe" pile.

You may wonder why I haven't figured out if all my stuff will fit yet - well, I've done a partial packing and did some guessing and it seems that I'll be alright. But what with the state that my bedroom has been in for the last month, with boxes every where and things half-packed and stuff of my newphew's sitting around as well (and it's not a big room to start with) there hasn't really been any space to spread out my stuff and do a real packing trial. So I've guesstimated, and I'll figure it out for sure this evening or tomorrow. Mostly I've just placed the stuff that would be good to take in various piles around my room.

So I fly out of Halifax Wednesday evening, around 8-9pm. I'm taking a shuttle over in the afternoon so will be at the airport *plenty* early, by "plenty" I mean about 2 hours before the recommended 3 hours early for international flights. Then my flight is overnight to London, landing at 4am Atlantic time (8am Britain), and then I'll have another 4 hours to kill in Heathrow before flying to Edinburgh for the afternoon. My plan is to take it easy that evening, get a good night's sleep, and then start the bureaucratic processes on Friday before heading to either Inverness or Fort William (as they're the big centres in the Highlands) to job hunt on the weekend or the Monday after. I may hang around Edinburgh for the weekend and do some touristy things as well, whatever strikes my fancy.

Seeing as I still have packing to do, I'd best be getting back at that. Next update will be from Scotland.