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liuzhou

Stranger in a Strange Land

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Posted (edited)

I can now identify the secret, exotic destination I mentioned elsewhere that I was travelling to (and reveal why it had to be a secret). 

 

After a 42 hour journey by bus (2), train (4) plane (2) with various stopovers waiting for connections, I reached my first destination. A mysterious country called Scotland, full of wild people and strange food.

 

Despite having been born there, I know very little about the place and haven't been there in decades. But I am now.

 

The reason for the exhausting trip, which I have been planning for 10 years, is that Sunday (30th June 2019) was my mother's 90th birthday. She was expecting a simple lunch with my youngest brother and his wife, but when she arrived at the restaurant she found nearly all her 5 kids (including me), all her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Only one of the 30 knew I was coming - my daughter. Big surprise.

 

I arrived on the Thursday and went to the highly recommended hotel I had booked in a village a mile from my mother's home to recover from the jet lag and hide. Things began to go wrong. The hotel was closed and locked! A woman from the gift shop opposite saw me being confused and came over to tell me that the place had closed months earlier, dishonoring dozens of paid for bookings including wedding receptions and other functions.

 

The crooks had taken my booking and payment on the 4th of June, despite them having closed in February. As far as I can see their website is still open and accepting bookings. I have reported this to the police, and I paid by credit card so should be able to get my money back. Not however, what you need after such a long, exhausting journey.

 

Fortunately, the woman also directed me to another (better and slightly cheaper) hotel nearby where I was able to get a room for my required number of nights.

 

I had a pint or two of that Scottish classic:

 

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and collapsed into bed.

 

Only to wake up at 3 am craving my dinner! No chance. I had to wait for breakfast.

 

Next day, I headed to a nearby seaside village where I lived as a kid.

 

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After exploring my childhood, I became a little peckish, so visited a nearby award winning restaurant/cafe that I'd heard of.

 

I ordered the

 

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Washed down with a bottle of

 

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Despite the pie being out-of-focus, it was delicious.  The roast ham was equally good and there was lots of it. Good home-baked bread and fine cheddar. But the star was that chutney. I had to ask what it was and ended up buying a jar to take home to China. The cider was very refreshing on an unusually warm Scottish day.

 

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After a happy nostalgic day, I went back to the hotel, downed a pint or two of

 

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and slept some more.

 

On the Saturday, I visited Edinburgh, where there were some things I wanted to buy. But also for more nostalgia.

 

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By chance, I passed the cafe where the first Harry Potter book was written. I've never read any of them.

 

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Then lunch. I knew what I wanted.

 

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Haggis (centre), Neeps (left) and Tatties (right). Wonderful!

 

Also later visited the Oxford Bar, famous from Scottish crime writer, Iain Rankin's Rebus series of detective novels

 

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where I had a pint of

 

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Next morning was the big day. I had breakfast in the hotel.

 

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Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and spinach. Very Scottish!

 

Then headed to the surprise party venue.

 

Coming soon!


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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This is great! Wonderful pictures, and I laughed out loud (which I seldom do when I'm by myself) at that third Guinness photo.

 

I'm curious, too, about your exploring your childhood after having been away for so long. I did the same with my neighborhood in NYC, and my immediate reaction was, "Everything looks so much smaller now."

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 I am green with envy about the ploughman‘s lunch.  Not that any ploughman ever had it quite so good.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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Posted (edited)

I too laughed out loud at the Guinness, and drooled at every one of those dishes! Thanks so much for this (and your many other) posts.


Edited by TdeV Correcting punctuation (log)
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Congratulations on your Mom's birthday! So glad the whole family was able to make the journey and celebrate with her.  Looking forward to reading all your posts about this trip! Aside from the horrible closed hotel incident it looks like you are having a great vacation with plenty of bread, cheese, potatoes, and beverages.

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Please have an oatcake for me while you're there! I hope the trip has been absolutely wonderful, and you've enjoyed the time with your family. The meals look delightful!

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

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Posted (edited)
On 7/2/2019 at 10:04 PM, kayb said:

Please have an oatcake for me while you're there! I hope the trip has been absolutely wonderful, and you've enjoyed the time with your family. The meals look delightful!

 

 

I've already had a few oatcakes! Right next door to the place I ate the Ploughman's is a bakery I first visited about 60 years ago. They have great oatcakes. Several were purchased and consumed in the hotel room wiith goats' cheese at strange hours of the night / morning when the jet lag started demanding food.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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2 hours ago, Alex said:

 

I'm curious, too, about your exploring your childhood after having been away for so long. I did the same with my neighborhood in NYC, and my immediate reaction was, "Everything looks so much smaller now."

 

Yes, I experienced that syndrome. I remembered the walk from the station to that beach being a long one, but it only took about 4 minutes.

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A wonderful journey and reunion!     That get-together was worth all of your planning and effort.

 

I had forgotten about that homey lunch, Ploughman;s picnic".    That was one of my standard pub orders.     Simple, predictable and always satisfying.    Thanks so much for sharing all of this with us.

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So nice for your mother !

 

thank you for posting about it 

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6 hours ago, liuzhou said:

The reason for the exhausting trip, which I have been planning for 10 years, is that Sunday (30th June 2019) was my mother's 90th birthday. She was expecting a simple lunch with my youngest brother and his wife, but when she arrived at the restaurant she found nearly all her 5 kids (including me), all her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Only one of the 30 knew I was coming - my daugther. Big surprise.

 

These are the kind of stories I love to read, thanks a lot for sharing!

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Teo

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I just saw this now... What a great story! I would have loved to see your mother's expression when she realized what lengths people went through for her. Can't wait to read more...

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Posted (edited)

More, please.


Edited by SLB (log)
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I am loving this. More please is right. I can get behind the Guinness in a New York minute. I'll have the neeps and tatties, hold the haggis. 

 

My spellcheck really doesn't cotton to those foods. I had to spend a fair amount of time correcting "needs" and "tattoos." Drink enough Guinness and you might stumble out of a tattoo parlor with a poorly drawn haggis on your......well, where would you want that?

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So you would consider my tattoo of an ear of corn off putting?  (If I had one of course.)

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Posted (edited)

I arrived at the birthday venue far too early, but the logistics were that I could either be early or unforgivably late. We all had to be there when my mother arrived.

 

This means that there may be a decided lack of images of Guinness in this post. I didn't want to be half-cut by the time she arrived, so, to my eternal shame,  I requested an alcohol free drink. They gave me some revolting concoction which they called "non alcoholic cider". Now, in British English, "cider" is apple based and alcoholic. The American term ""Apple Cider" baffles me. This obnoxous "drink" was 90% sugar and 10% cherries. Disgusting. I felt quite nauseous by the time any action happened.

 

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Anyway, I was sitting at the bar of the restaurant, near the door, so I could see everyone who came in. The first thing that confused me was a young mid-twenty year old girl who came in and looked me, screamed and threw herself into my arms. This, I assure you, doesn't happen on a regular basis. This tall, beautiful woman looked vaguely familiar and it clicked that she must be my niece. She is now 27 and I hadn't seen her in 19 years.

 

Minutes later, her younger sister arrived together with a bunch of children who meant nothing to me. Then the first niece ran out to the car park and dragged her mother, my sister in. I haven't seen her for 19 years, either.  She just stopped dead and stared at me in confusion for what seemed a long time, then ran as fast as she can (not fast at all - she is a large woman) and gave me what is probàbly the biggest hug she ever gave me.

 

Next was my daughter, one of only two people who did know I'd be there, along with her two daughters and with whom I've been in constant contact on Facebook, but hadn't seen for 12 years. Almost finally my younger brother's wife and his daughter and children were there.

 

The scene was set. All we were for waiting for was the star of the show.

 


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Posted (edited)

Soon, we received reports that my youngest brother was pulling into the car park with my mother aboard. We had a long table like the Last Supper, but with the narrow end nearest the door. I was sitting to the left of Christ's empty seat.

 

My mother came in and was immediately surprised at the size of the crowd, but didn't really register who was there and who wasn't. She headed to the narrow end nearest her, but was soon redirected to her alloted position at the table centre.

 

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She walked down the long edge of the table saying hello to family who live near her, then stopped, saw me, pointed in  utter surprise, but I like to think, delighted. Here, captured by my daughter, is the moment she saw me.

 

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and here is the gathering.

 

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My family (almost - 6 were unable to come)

 

I suppose I should mention food, but in the excitement I only photographed my meal.

 

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Fish and chips. Very good!

 

Hours passed in seconds and then people started to disperse. I returned to my hotel and had a pint of

 

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and to bed, tired but happy.

 

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Edited by liuzhou (log)
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A good-looking bunch.  

And your Mum certainly doesn't look her age!

 

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What a wonderful thing to do for your Mother, she will cherish the memory!

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"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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What a wonderful family event.  Very important for all.

Thanks for sharing.

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