Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Scottish tern signs

[Ed: No, the title is not misspelled.]

Math Man has spent the last three days chasing a small ball around the Scottish dunes, in the hopes of managing to put it in one of eighteen 4.25" diameter holes (or since we are, at least for the moment, in the EU, 108 mm holes). Meanwhile, I've walked many miles along the shorelines of the dunes. Yesterday, at Brora, the views and the walk were extraordinary. The day was spectacular, the beach perfect for walking, and the occasional bench perched on the dunes above the beach a perfect spot to sit and think, take in the view, or even write a bit.  All of which I did. It was a day I hope to return to in memory again and again. But what stands out almost as much as the day were the signs.

At the far end of the beach, there were signs on the dunes, warning of nesting arctic terns. Don't disturb the nests and keep your dogs under control.  I carefully avoided the fenced off dune areas. Not carefully enough, apparently, as a tern came swooping down, chirping wildly.  I moved quickly off the dunes and down to the water. Yeah, no. I am still too close. Now the tern is diving closer and closer, I can feel the air pushed down as she swoops across the back of my neck. I flash on Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.  I pull my back pack over the back of my neck to protect it and head off the beach. I run into Math Man at the top of the dunes, and while telling him about the terns, get dive bombed again. He suggests — firmly — that I should depart and take the tetchy tern with me. I finally get far enough down the beach to reassure her that I'm not going to disturb her chicks. Promise.

There were signs on the road for: deer crossing, heavy plant crossing, elderly people crossing...and otters crossing. There is a robust population of river otters in Scotland and they occasionally cross the roads (for the same reason as the chicken — to get to the other side.) I note that the heavy plant sign is not warning of weighty plants stalking cars, but an industrial plant truck exit. I love how the language shifts make my brain turn sideways. I'm with the late Toni Morrison, perhaps the tower of Babel was not a loss, but a gain. A gain of perspective, a gain of narratives, a gain of joy.

Read (or listen) to Toni Morrison's beautiful Nobel prize address. My favorite lines: "Language can never “pin down” slavery, genocide, war. Nor should it yearn for the arrogance to be able to do so. Its force, its felicity is in its reach toward the ineffable. Be it grand or slender, burrowing, blasting, or refusing to sanctify; whether it laughs out loud or is a cry without an alphabet, the choice word, the chosen silence, unmolested language surges toward knowledge, not its destruction."

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Scottish turns

Math Man and I went to Edinburgh last week, to see the Fringe Festival (Crash Kid is the stage manager for Four Woke Baes which is on at the Fringe - go see it :). Also see comedian Tiff Stevenson and Kiinalik at the International Festival...or any of the literally thousands of other performances on right now).

On Sunday morning we undertook to meet Crash for breakfast on the other side of Edinburgh, he's got limited availability around rehearsals, performances and the need to pre-cook s'mores for those performances. Having more or less mastered the Lothian buses, we checked times on Google maps and saw we were just in time for the bus a short walk away. Fabulous!

We follow Google maps directions to the bus stop. Alas, Google left us 40 feet away from the bus stop. Why alas? That would be 40 vertical feet below the bus stop. Edinburgh, the birthplace of Harry Potter, is a city of multiple levels and tiny alleys and staircases that wind between them. We found steps up and dashed up them and around the corner to just make the bus, now dripping in sweat and hearts pounding. Whew. We had a lovely breakfast with Crash and an incredible ramble through the botanical gardens. A nice ending to our time in Edinburgh, Google maps notwithstanding.

Yesterday we drove up north of Inverness. (We are in the birth country of golf, and Math Man gets a bit excited about golf, so we are planted up for a few days while he indulges in some sea side walking chasing a ball and I indulge in walking, period). Math Man played a course on a spit out into a firth, I walked down to the point to (hopefully) see dolphins. No dolphins, but some amazing lighting bolts. Math Man gives up the game after 10 holes and we get in the car to head to where we are staying about an hour away.

I fire up Google maps, and we head off down the country roads. We go through a little town, turning every 50 feet it seems. "Go left," I say firmly. Math Man turns left and say, "Ferry?" I look down at Google maps and the next direction shown is a little ferry icon. Indeed, with no warning at all, Google maps has directed us to a ferry. Which is here. Which is ready to go. We drive on and they winch up the ramp most of the way and we're off. The timing was so smooth it was like a scene from a James Bond movie, where the bad guys chasing 007 are just a fraction of a second to catch him before he flies/sails/motors away.

Turns out we are on the smallest car ferry in the UK, it holds two cars (barely, the ramp won't go up the whole way with us on board) or one van.  And despite the joke when we asked where it was going, it was going to Nidd across the bay, not Norway. And it certainly did save us time. Slàinte mhath!