9-3-17 Clarissa Talks Primulas

Thursday came along with my second trial day at work. I got to finish up my meerkat madness–lucky me!–but I’ll admit that when I got to set up a fabulous display for a giant highland cow statue from the same order, all was forgiven. I seriously love highland cows!

I only snapped a few photos at the end of the day–surprisingly enough, they’re of flowers! Who would have guessed it! Garden centres never fail to be places full of light and color perfect for a cheeky photo opp. There’s always something in bloom no matter the season. Perhaps that’s always been the appeal for me, all the botanical delights one can sniff out, and helping nice folk uncover those charms for themselves.

I was asked to pot up some spring hanging baskets, which you’ll hear no complaints from this girl about! Hanging baskets are super easy to do but have a typical “formula.” The easiest to remember is the “spiller, thriller, filler” method, which features something big, tall guy for height or to be a feature; others to fill up the pot; and some to spill over the side. Any variation on that depending on tastes makes for a lovely basket or planter.

The baskets I made featured a wee clump of daffodils just coming into bloom, a few segments of ivy to trail down the side, a small bellis plant for blossoms, a wee evergreen for color and contrast, and last but not least, the spring essential: the primrose. Primroses are a fan favorite here for their bright, cheery, multi-colored faces and ability to withstand the lingering winter chill makes them a trusty spring favorite.

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I don’t particularly remember seeing them at the nursery back home in Tennessee, but maybe they’ve caught on in the years since. You gotta hand it to ’em though. They’re nothing if not cheery to see after long Scottish winters!

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8-3-17 First Daze

Well, back to the grindstone again eh folk?

Today was my first day at another garden centre, this one a pretty fair shake outside of Edinburgh. The lady I interviewed with suggested the trial day, and for fair reason, considering a trial day at a place can tell you a lot about whether or not you actually want to work there. So I readily agreed to this, and took off that morning to my new potential digs.

The funny thing about garden centres within Scotland is that they are all fairly similar to one another, at least with regards to the things that they sell and who they get them from. It’s all about location and available suppliers I suppose. That said, the folk at this place seem like really nice people, and I was certainly kept busy enough with tasks. Some of them familiar and comfortable (plant displays, throwing out old stock, pruning, etc.) and some familiar but in a slightly cringey way.

I’m talking about the meerkats of course.

In the UK there’s this commercial (at least this is how Haitham has explained it) that started featuring, naturally, some talking meerkats (who also sound Russian?). They explain that they operate a service called “Compare the Meerkat”–NOT the well-known service, Compare the Market. Blah blah.

Anyway one of the companies we worked with at my last job featured lots of little life-like animal statues of dogs and stuff. While I did enjoy seeing small children run up to the life-size dog statues and give them loving pats on the head, eventually I started dreading seeing these guys come in. There were loads. Even worse, eventually they made some kind of deal with the meerkats and I had to deal with these.

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Honestly I question people’s judgement sometimes. It’s not just this one either. James Bond meerkats, cowboy meerkats, pajama meerkats, you name it.

So when I was ushered away from plant-duties to work on the ever-familiar meerkats and other animals sitting in teacups and giant highland cow replicas, well. I wasn’t sure exactly how to feel… like some meerkat-mad person was playing a joke on me!? But hey ho, a job’s a job eh?

At the end of the day my manager suggested that I work there for the rest of the month to see how I found the longish drive. I thought that was a  very kind offer and accepted. Considering I may still well find something else, but for the time being I think the place is nice enough, it suits us both!

Being as I didn’t want to give off the wrong impression on my first day, I didn’t go in swinging the big ol’ camera about, but I did manage to take this wee photo of the tiniest snail I discovered on a pot that morning. Hardly bigger than a water droplet. I stinkin’ love the little guys.

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7-3-17 Whisky Barrel Rides

Tuesday was my last “free day” before my trial at a potential job. So of course I spent it productively.

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We can all blame Haitham for this one. I think he thought he was doing a good thing. Bless his heart.

Eventually I extricated myself from the webs of sidequests and growing a neckbeard, because I had plans with an old colleague who I hadn’t seen in a while! Turns out her partner here landed an excellent job within a popular joint here called the Scotch Whisky Experience. I’d been once before, but on the offer to go for free on another tour with my friend, well! As a whisky fan who was I to refuse?

The experience itself can be summed up thusly: cheesy but informative entertainment! The first time I went I was pretty bemused by the slow-moving “barrel ride” that you set forth on first thing. You trickle slowly through tunnels where a CG ghost follows you explaining the process of whisky distillation–right.

But they’ve spruced up the following explanation of whisky geography with a giant room featuring a wall-to-wall screen that showcases absolutely stunning footage of the various whisky regions within Scotland. My friend commented at the end that it was like the best propaganda film towards visiting she’d ever seen, and I’m inclined to agree. It really was fancy! The following room we were allowed to choose which whisky we wanted to sample based on its region. I went for Campeltown, which I’ve not experienced very much. My Glen Scotia dram was lovely!

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The real prize of the Experience is being able to see the world’s biggest Scotch whisky collection. Some rich guy has been privately buying all these amazing bottles for a long time now. He eventually brought them here to Edinburgh where they remain to this day. It’s a gorgeous room featuring so many stunning bottles of all shapes and sizes. Totally worth it for a cheeky photo op for sure!

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Afterwards the three of us headed out to dinner and even managed to find the closest thing to “proper” Mexican food we’ve had since moving here. (A devastatingly hard thing to find here!)

So here’s to whisky and the good times it brings!

6-3-17 Sun, Sky, Sand

Monday came round with a promised visit with my friend Krista. Despite my having just been there the day before in dreary weather, I agreed to give the weather a chance to redeem itself and headed down to Portobello beach. I figured since I only had two days left before my trial day at a potential job, I had better make the most of it by getting into shenanigans. (As if I hadn’t been doing that the entire time!!)

Lucky for us it was a fantastic day weather-wise. We met for delicious food at the appropriately named “The Beach” where we stuffed face while also watching out the window as one lone madman attempted to surf the Scottish waves. The beach also features a lovely promenade that showcases cafes, shops, and even an old-fashioned arcade. It’s an excellent place for a stroll, people watching, or taking the dug out for a walk (or admiring other people’s dugs and wondering how easily they can be stolen).

One feature of Portobello beach that I love is that the extremely smooth, wave-dampened sand sometimes creates an almost perfect mirror image of the sky above. Here’s a picture of Krista, basking in the sunlight like the solar-starved creatures that all Scotland residents inevitably are!

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There were also loads of shore birds out and about. I did snap a few photos of the ever-present gulls, but am totally stumped as to what they even are. All gulls look more or less the same to me–even worse, they all have different plumage depending on how young/old they are, and even the season! Ah well, we’ll save them for another day. Instead, here’s a photo of a bird called an oystercatcher, a common water bird round these parts. I think they’re quite dapper dudes.

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Did I mention there’s loads of dogs?? As it happens, if you take off your shoes to wade through a bit of rushing beach-stream, and later sit down to get all the sand off your footsicles in order to put said shoes back on, a lot of dogs will come over to investigate what the ground-level human is up to. I know Scotty dogs are a bit of a stereotype thanks to Lady and the Tramp, but come on. How cute is this guy! (No, his name was not Jock!)

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It was several hours of wandering in, when Krista and I had headed down the inevitable path of “the future of humanity is doomed because we’re all terrible” discussion, that we glanced ahead and saw… this.

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No matter how grim you may think the state of the world may be, seeing some dogs on wheels having the time of their life on the beach just makes it seem like it’s not so bad, doesn’t it?

 

EDIT: When I looked up Jock from the film, I found this clip online. It’s funny how you pick up tidbits you never noticed before with time or random chance. For example, in the movie Jock is shown singing a little song to himself as he finds his bone burying spot. I now can recognize the song as a particular traditional song that everyone here knows for sure–The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond! Mom, Dad, you should remember it as well!

To explain: “This song was written by a MacGregor of Glen Endrick, who was jailed, along with a friend, in Carlisle England in 1746. The author had been condemned to death for his support of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1745 uprising, while his friend was going to be set free. The song tells of the old Celtic myth that the soul of a Scot who dies outside his homeland will find it’s way back home by the spiritual road, or the low road. So he condemned man says to his friend: “You take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye…”

It is actually a lovely heart-wrencher of a song, as most good folk songs are. Go figure that ol’ Jock would be making up his own doggy lyrics to a Scottish classic!

5-3-17 Blackford Hill

Haitham made the mistake of getting me a video game, y’all. He heard me lamenting the fact that I never got to play a particularly famous/incredibly geeky RPG when it was in its hey-day, and lo and behold a few days later guess what arrived in the mail? The newest version of said game. After some grumps at all the game mechanics–when did games get so gosh-darn complicated??–I was in the thrall.

After a while we eventually extricated ourselves to go for a quick wander at the nearby Blackford Hill. Remember all those hills I mentioned in a prior post? No? Me either. Anyway, Blackford Hill is a stunning place for those interested in getting a fantastic aspect of Arthur’s Seat. As it was the evening hours and the sun had decided to grace us with its presence, the view was absolutely on point. Loads of folks were out with their dogs and small children were tumbling pell-mell all over the place.

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There’s also an old observatory. How neat is that? Haitham and I once did a tour inside and it was awesome.

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Honestly it’s like 360 degree photo opportunities. Perfect for amateur photo goobs like us. Next up, the castle, with the distinctive Firth of Forth just beyond!

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But for those not so inclined to architectural delights, there’s always feathery friends to consider. As the evening sun dipped lower, you could hear jubilant birdsong bouncing all about the hillside. I caught this fine fellow below really going for it, singing his damn head off for the entire countryside to hear. It was a gorgeous song though, so I can’t say I blame him. Turns out he’s an aptly named song thrush.

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I then caught this wild fledgling bird engaging in some strange behavior atop the hill. I think we scared her off, as she disappeared reappear a little further down engaging in the same activity. Am I getting old? Is this what it feels like to lose touch with youths? Are we doomed to enter a society 100% dedicated to the art of the Perfect Selfie? I guess I’m not mad though–after all, she had an amazing pink camera complete with a ridiculously loud shutter noise.

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Haitham and I eventually disengaged enough from the happy dogs and lovely scenery to head home before the sun fully set but not before the sky began to purple. What a stunning evening.

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For those interested, here’s a very wobbly video of our wee songbird going at it. The video stinks but the song remains delightful!

4-3-17 Portobello Blues

Today I visited my new friend that I am volunteering with through the RNIB. It seems a bit cheeky to call this a volunteering role or work at all, because she’s so lovely that going for outings and helping her run errands is honestly not a chore in the least. We’ll call her G, and she is a sprightly, very bubbly lady around 60 years old. She had sight most of her life, but only recently lost most of what was left of her remaining vision. Because it was an overcast day, our initial plan of venturing out to the Botanics was scrapped, but she had plans for what she wanted to do. The next few hours were spent running errands and having some lunch at a lovely restaurant right alongside Portobello’s coast.

I was honestly impressed with not only G’s amazingly positive attitude and sense of humor towards her sight loss, but her spatial awareness. She knew exactly which direction my car was parked every time we came out of a store, and she oftentimes knew better directions than Google maps. Not only that, but even when she was asking shop attendants for helping finding certain things, she did it with a smile and a laugh, explaining at one point to someone that she was out “foraging for berries and nuts.” What a total sweetheart.

I did understand a bit more about what it must be like for people living with sight loss on the day-to-day. People just aren’t exactly sure what to make of you. Every place we entered people’s curious stares were soon to follow. Sometimes people who do know you will walk up and say hello without saying who they are, leaving them guessing long after the conversation is over! Not only that, but a helpful shop attendant scurried off to find something for G, leaving her talking to thin air without realizing it. It must be an incredibly disorienting and frightening place to find yourself, but the attitudes of those with sight loss I’ve met so far is nothing but forward-thinking. They’re made of strong stuff. I guess you would have to be, considering.

Regardless it was a foggy and typically dreich day. That’s your Scottish word of the day. Dreich means dreary, gloomy weather. I only snapped a few photos, but here’s alongside Holyrood Park as I was heading home. Dreich in a nutshell.

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3-3-17 Oh No

I took a video of myself today for those interested. That’s me on the chair. It only lasts a few minutes, but in reality it lasted all day.

No lie folks. Some days you grab life by the reins. Other days you leave life waiting outside, settle down on the nearest couch in your PJs, put on a cheesy but addictive show on the laptop, and get cracking.

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This raccoon knows what’s up.

I did do a face mask that I brought back from Thailand. Look at that beautiful skin. Just look at it. See? Look I actually did at least one thing today, right?

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I’ll end with this one.

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2-3-17 Still March

The weather is still holding, clear and mostly sunny! Today I took a drive to the majestic town of Larbert. Which to be honest is a bit of a weak name as far as cities go. I mean… Larbert. It doesn’t really inspire loyal followings, does it?

Anyway I had an interview out there. As I was leaving, I paused for a moment to enjoy the scenery nearby. I don’t have any clue what those hills are, but I did think they were mighty impressive. Scotland never fails to provide some amazing scenery when you least expect it. (Like outside of places called “Larbert.”)

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I normally would spend some time exploring the area while there, but decided to beat it back to Edinburgh without snuffing out the secrets of Larbert. Instead I headed back into town, hopped on my bike, and attempted to make it on time to a meetup for photography. I missed the gathering by a few minutes (curse these Edi roadworks!) but did have a quick wander in the sun along Princes Street Gardens enjoying myself nonetheless.

Spotted this remnant of the Christmas Market hanging from a tree near Waverley Station.

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1-3-17 It’s March!

Can you believe it? March is here! Certainly the weather here actually feels like it, too. It was another crystal clear day in Edinburgh.

There’s a brewery down the road from our flat–it’s called the Caledonian Brewery and is not only responsible for pub on-tap favorites Deuchars IPA, The Flying Scotsman, and Edinburgh Castle, but the often-smelled source of wafting yeast on the breeze. Mmm mmm good! When I first moved here I found it a bit off-putting, but it’s rather grown on me. Like mold. Somedays, when I’m really lucky, it smells on the cheesier side, like some good ol’ Cheetos.

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Deuchars is a pretty nice, well-rounded brew on the rare occasions I do find myself looking for a trusty pint. More often than not though I find myself going for bottled fair Innis & Gunn, which is if I’m not mistaken a beer created by the son of the owner of the Caledonian Brewery guy. Funny, eh? It’s a small wee world here in Edinburgh.

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I particularly love Innis & Gunn because it’s no pansy when it comes to alcohol content. It’s sweet enough to be tasty, malty enough to still be a proper brew, but also packs quite a whallop at 7.7% ABV. Shoo wee!

But enough about that. I didn’t take either of those pictures. I did, however, snap a photo of the brewery as the sun was setting. I keep waiting for the perfect day to get a photo of the damn thing, but never quite catch it in the right lighting. Either way, on this particularly pungent day, I quite like the results of this photo here.

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28-2-17 RNIB, RBGE, and other Acronyms

Tuesday’s goooooone with the wiiiiind, but it was a great one while it lasted!

I woke up semi-early and was greeted with a gorgeous day. I mean, wow. It may only just be tripping into March, but the mild, sunny day that greeted me felt like… well, honestly it felt a bit like witchcraft. This is Scotland, and Scotland doesn’t have pretty, sunny, mild days in late February for cryin’ out loud!

Needless to say I carpe-diem’ed the hell out of the day. First off I hopped on the ol’ bike and pedaled all the way out to the Craigmillar area. I should explain: Edinburgh is a city, but it’s a pretty sprawling affair. Having lived here for going on three years now, I can now say I’ve only just begun to grasp all the distinct areas within Edinburgh. I dunno if all big cities have this sort of thing–I guess they do, just look at New York City and its different components–but I feel like Edi has a lot, and I’m not even sure why. A lot of times when you ask where people stay here and they reply “Oh, ________” you then look like a total numpty when you haven’t heard of it.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

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Surprisingly it was quite difficult to even rustle up this here map. It seems a bit like a well-known but still very shady secret. But they’re there! (For those wondering, I live in the Dalry side of town!)

Anyway so Craigmillar is the area where my new befriend-ee lives! I met with her and my volunteer coordinator within the RNIB so we all sat down and had a wee chat. I suppose it makes sense, just in case the people the volunteer coordinators are setting up together don’t click or insult each other’s families or something. Luckily for me, my wee lady was a total delight, and I’m looking forward to going on outings with her again. She seemed particularly keen on going for a ride in the Panda Express. Can’t say I blame her. Who wouldn’t?! As I was leaving though she said, “What color is your Panda?” and I said, “Red, of course!!” and she had a mighty chortle, probably imagining it like the majestic steed it is rather than the tiny wee go-kart it pretends to be. Anyway, I think we’ll get along just fine!

Following that I seized the day some more! I hopped on the bike again and cycled on down–follow along with me here–to the Inverleith side of town, which I adore, because it’s fuckin’ fancy. This is where all the posh folk live in Edinburgh in their fancy stone flats and amazing views. It also happens to be where one of my favorite bits of Edi is, The Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh. It’s a large, gorgeous, and best of all, free botanic garden that I’ve been to countless times. Today was no exception. Despite hardly any of the trees yet budding out, there’s always something to captivate.

Did I mention it was a gorgeous day already?

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Although the plants are always captivating, it still being very early spring most things are still asleep. We’ll blame that on why a good chunk of my time was spent feeding all the wildlife. What can I say? My birding habits are turning me into some kind of hippie Snow White. I started off with a wee cheeky robin, moved up to a gargantuanly fluffy gray squirrel, eventually gave a big ol’ wood pigeon a few scraps, and finally gave two handsome crows (and another jealous squirrel) some. All crumbled walnuts–it’s handy that as a vegetarian I often travel with snacks, as my wee friends seemed to totally dig it. Much to my amusement lots of other photographers were out during the day taking advantage of the glorious light, and as I chucked walnut bits to my squirrely friend a guy crouched down a few feet away, snapping photos like it was going out of style. Can’t say I blame him–I got some too!

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Look at that wee wastrel. A lot of people here half-heartedly badmouth the invasive American gray squirrels because they’ve given the more timid, but native, red squirrel the boot. But can you really stay mad at this guy when they’re so damn fluffy?

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I also spotted this feller for the first time. He’s what’s called a redwing here–imaginative, that–and is mainly seen as a winter bird. They don’t hang out in gardens much, but prefer open, grassy fields. Handsome chap!

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I really like birds from the crow family as well. While at first I thought this guy and his pal were ravens, I’m now tempted to say they were carrion crows. Still the same family, just a mite smaller. Either way they were pretty keen on my walnut bits, and their shiny blue-black feathers were spiffy. I think I’ve liked them ever since I learned how smart they are, and how they’ll leave you gifts if they like you like they did this girl. How cool! (But I bet they kick up quite a racket, too!)

Then I saw this guy. I’m not sure what type of bird he is. But he was kicking up quite the stink. Upon making lots of racket, he was permitted a drink from his parental unit. Upon finishing that, he immediately chucked it at the ground. When he was chastised by the unit, he promptly hurled himself down on the ground, thrashing and emitting some frightful noises.

I’m ashamed to admit I took a photo. I’m sorry hard-working papa, wherever you are!

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I’m sure I had my moments growing up. In fact, I think I still do. They’re usually fixed by chocolate, or ice cream. What does that say about me? So I’m allowed to have thought how hilarious it was to witness this, right?

I’ll finish off with this one, taken on my way home.

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