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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27-2-17 Mondays, Am I Right?

Safe to say I didn’t leave the flat most of the day. But the job search doth go on!

I finally pulled myself together enough in the evening to meander into the city just to walk the hubs home. Luckily enough, it just so happened to be a stupendous sunset. The city was transformed in the last throes of the evening from a drizzly, wretched place to a total stunner bathed in a golden glow. It was honestly lovely, and as I stopped at the busy Haymarket intersection to snap some photos I wasn’t the only one. A chap a few feet away looked back at me and said, “Stunning evening innit?” as he took some photos of his own. I agreed heartily.

Sometimes Edi, though quite a big city, retains a homey small-town feeling.

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This being around 5:45 PM, whereas a little over a month ago it was still fully dark at 4:30 or so, is one of the many tidings that spring is on its way.

Sometimes I forget that I live in a really damn spiffy city. Other times it power-slaps me in the face with a gentle reminder. Today was one of those days.

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26-2-17 Sunday Blues

It was an uneventful day by most standards. It’s easy to use Scottish weather as a cop-out for lazy days, but also true. One thing I noticed upon moving here was not that it rains a lot, but how it rains. Gray days here are the norm, especially in winter, and it does drizzle pretty frequently. But never massive amounts. I think growing up in Tennessee made me think “rain” = “torrential downpour, schools are out, there’s massive flooding everywhere.” Here rain typically either means a light but constant drizzle, or it means WIND.

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I guess the dilemma isn’t so bad except Edinburgh is a place where people walk. I know! Southerners haven’t heard of this thing really–what’s a walk? Is it that thing you do in the seconds it takes to get to your car outside? Sure, Southerners know bad weather. But when you’ve got a car, you can avoid the humidity, the pelting rain, the naders, what have you, except for in those brief interludes where you haven’t managed to find shelter.

But in Edinburgh you’ve got great public transport, really small roads, little need for a car and hardly anywhere to park if you did, you instead face the elements. That means trying to squeeze in with loads of other poor blokes at the bus stops, hoping you can get a middle position so the wind doesn’t blast the rain in through the exposed bits. Or if you’ve already started walking, that you can flip your umbrella right side in before you get too drenched. Sometimes it’s pointless even bothering with the brolly should it get too gusty–the wind can sling the rain in your face from beneath your brolly, no questions asked. Not only that, but if you decide to take a bus in the rain, well, chances are you’re not the only one. Welcome to wet, congested bus hell!

Anyway yesterday was a day like that here in Edi. I’m ashamed to admit that Haitham and I trundled up into the Panda just to go to Lidl… which is literally less than a mile away. I know, it’s shameful. But when we waited to pull out we saw a lady waiting outside of the bus stop smoking a cigarette. It was coming in sideways, but for some reason this lady wasn’t even bothering with waiting beneath the covered bus stop. She had all her bags stacked on the wet ground, no brolly, cigarette fully lit, and a long baguette fully exposed to the elements poking out from within one of her bags.

There’s just honestly no telling sometimes.

I guess we can only hope for our one day of summer to be winging its way to us even as I type this. For now, if interested, you can check the Edinburgh weather here.

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25-2-17 – Ruggers

Haitham and I sometimes head into town and are greeted, depending on the time, by either masses of people flowing towards us or away. It’s one of the quirks of living relatively close to Murrayfield Stadium, which happens to be the largest stadium in Scotland. And since this is the U.K., you have RUGBY. (And soccer!)

I’ll admit I don’t know much about rugby except those guys are FIT. (Those thighs though.) To me it’s a bit like American football, except more brutal, no helmets, and no pauses in play. When someone gets blocked while still holding the ball, the fellers do this wild dogpile on top of each other. The play doesn’t end there–the guy with the ball and also who happens to be the bottom of a pile of burly men, strategically shuggles the ball by shielding it with his ball and trying to get it passed on to one of his teammates. Gotta give ’em credit there.

And then there’s the scrum. Like… I don’t even actually know.

Anyway!!! So it was, surprise surprise, Scotland vs Wales in the 6 Nations Championship yesterday, which happened to be at Murrayfield. As Haitham and I headed innocently into town, we began passing the throngs of merrymakers in full ornament. For Scotland, this included highland cow hats, kilts, and 6-packs of Tennants beer. For Wales, this meant people with giant daffodil hats, sheep costumes, and Welsh flags acting as skirts.

It was kind of amazing. Even better, turns out Scotland actually won!

But I won’t post any of those photos and instead will just end on a tourist photo I snapped while enjoying our walk after the flood ceased.

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I just loved spotting the wee rainbow flag at the very top of the Royal Mile. #pride

24/2/17 – Clarissa Revisits Stirling!

I saw a minor celebrity today. He’s looking a bit aged these days I will admit, and is a bit past his prime. However he was nice enough to let me get a photo of him, even if he was a little stand-offish.

He also let me give him a chin scratch.

Who did I meet, pray tell? Oswald the Museum Cat of course!

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Oswald is a bit of a local hero in Stirling. If you look at the museum website, he’s even got a substantial poem written in his honor. So, naturally when I got a call to return to Stirling for a second interview, well, what better way to make the most of my time than by paying homage to wee Oswald?

The museum itself–fully titled the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum–was a quaint place that featured showcases relating to the history of Stirling itself. All sorts of things were covered, from information about the industries that have risen in the area, to a gallery showcasing some local art. It was also complete with some plush relics and art pieces of Oswald tucked here and there. My particular favorite was the Margaret Thatcher mug. Like… her face. In mug form. Which was nestled in among the miner’s display, which seems a bit cheeky if you ask me (for those who don’t know, old Thatcher was not miner’s friends).

But I digress.

We had an abrupt weather change recently from milder weather to sudden sleety showers and winds. Edinburgh of course had no accumulation whatsoever, but I was pleasantly surprised to see all the snow in the Pentlands as I drove out of town. That turns to minor fuming when I got to Stirling and saw that the Wallace Monument, which had greeted my climbing efforts before with a gusty, cold, drizzly view, was now nestled snugly into the snowy hills alongside. Talk about what a beautiful view that would have been had I gone on this trip instead!!

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Ah well, still got some nice shots of it. Also had a wander through Stirling, had some nice coffee in a very touristy cafe featuring bagpipes in the background as you do, and had a promising second interview. So things could always be worse eh!

23/2/17 – When Good Baking Goes Bad

What’s it like living in the U.K.? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s pretty great most of the time. I mean, sure the weather here is pretty shit, but at least we have great health care and public transport…

But I tell you what stinks. Baking!!!

Exhibit A:

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Look at this. WOULD YOU JUST LOOK AT THIS. This is the BIGGEST bag of chocolate chips (even worse: called “drops!”) that Asda, which is like the U.K.’s version of Wal-mart, has to offer. THE HUMANITY! And this bag costed me at least 50p. Just think of the carnage of plastic baggies and coins I have to rip into to get a decent amount for my cookies, shake my head. I’m not even sure the free health care makes up for this if I’m being honest.

Exhibit B:

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Yeah, this is me weighing out my godforsaken butter so that I can make some brownies. Forget the convenience of having them pre-wrapped in measured cup portions, noooo, everything is measured in grams here. For your information, a half-cup of butter is exactly 115 g… and your average package of butter here is 250 g. It’s not even EQUIVALENT.

On top of that, I tried using hot cocoa here to make brownies. I didn’t have any cocoa powder on hand, so I looked up an–danger, Will Robinson– American recipe that incorporated hot cocoa mix. Exhibit C is not shown, but it is the remnants of a batch of brownies gone wrong that now are residing at the bottom of my bin.

RIP, brownies.

I guess that’s what happens when you put actual chocolate in with butter and other stuff. It turns into a cement block that happens to taste like the devil’s arsehole. I think all this could have been rectified if I had used American hot cocoa, like the stuff you see coming out of satchels. (I now wonder: what even is that stuff??)

Anyway, I refused to give up after this and ended up redeeming myself with some chocolate chip cookies. I brought them along to board games with some a few pals, and they were a hit. Southern pride: still intact, but just barely!

I’ll end with this. Have y’all ever played Scrawl? It’s like… well, it’s sort of like the kid’s game Telephone. Where you whisper something into your friend’s ear and they whisper into their friend’s ear and so forth. (It’s called “Chinese whispers” here in the U.K., a little un-PC but what can you do eh!) Anyway, Scrawl is the board game version of that, except there’s a drawing element, then a written element. The first person gets a card, they draw what they see, the next person gets it (no context), writes what they see, the next person draws, etc. etc. Eventually the full spread makes its way back to you… and then you can see where everyone inevitably goes horribly wrong. It’s honestly amazing.

Here’s a photo of two that managed to replicate each other perfectly in a round! Emma’s on the right, mine on the left. Unfortunately someone translated one of the drawings as seen by the card on the table–that was Haitham’s understanding of it! Somehow, that guy managed to win the game. What is the world coming to?

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22/2/17 – Clarissa Eats… Everything

This one could also be subtitled, Clarissa didn’t actually do much of anything today. In my defense it’s because the weather totally tricked me. When I woke up and checked the forecast with visions of a nice cycle dancing in my head, I was greeted with doom and gloom and 40+ mph wind speeds. So I thought, “hmm, maybe not today.”

What did I get? Sun shining all day and hardly even a puff of wind–I trusted you, weather guy!! 

At least I shot off some applications eh?

So I’ll talk about my dining from the night before… because who doesn’t like hearing about other people’s meals, eh?

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Here’s a sundae I had the night prior with my gal-pal Krista. Notice there’s two: it’s a well-known fact that girls who eat ice cream together, stay pals forever. The sundae in question was procured from the cute wee pub called Woodland Creatures down Leith Walk.

This was of course after stuffing face at a really nice establishment called Punjabi Junction, whose mission is this: “Punjabi Junction is run by Sikh Sanjog for the community. Our vision is to inspire and empower Sikh and other Minority Ethnic women to advance their own life opportunities, through the building of skills, confidence and social inclusion.”

True enough the food was delicious and served by very lovely ladies. Not only that, it was cheap as chips! I can totally dig it. Would recommend if any random Edinburghians ever happen to stumble upon this blog.