Munching in front of a Monument again: this time it's Edinburgh Castle. Yes, I've used shortbread but, true-to-my-nature, it has a thick layer of chocolate on the top.
After all, why not pop over there on a cheap flight for a few days during Sapphire's half-term break. And don't get me started on why kids need a week off after only six weeks of school and then a pupil-free day the following Monday... Love Chunks was left at work (with a couple of days to go skiing too, so don't feel too sorry for him).
The above photo was taken by a rather hungover young gentleman who was heading home to bed after a big Saturday night out just as we were heading up to the castle for an early Sunday morning start.
Sapphire beside a tiny window inside the St Margaret's chapel in the rocky grounds of Edinburgh castle. It's the oldest still-standing building there dating back to the 11th century. It was surprising to discover that the castle is still used for army training and large areas were blocked off. A few Chinese tourists didn't read the 'Private Residence - No Entry' signs and opened the front door and wandered inside a rather lovely looking terraced house, no doubt surprising (or annoying) the occupants.
My observation to Sapph: "It must be terrific to live in such historical buildings and locations, but - whatever you do - always remember to have clothes on when you fling open your window or need to dash outside to whip a dry towel off the clothesline."
It was hurtful to receive only a eye roll for my sharing of wisdom.
Greyfriars church, in the heart of the Old Town at the base of the castle, was a spot that was regularly dug up by body snatchers keen to earn eight quid (half a years' wage) for each fresh(ish) one found. Therefore, grim-looking headstones such as this one (see the two coffin and shovel icons left and right between the skull and crossbones?) were designed to warn potential carcass criminals to bog off and try somewhere else. Richer graves even had locked gates to prevent being disturbed whilst poorer-but-determined families sometimes forced a relative to sit on a new grave for at least a fortnight. After that, the bone burglars knew that the contents inside would be too decayed to interest the nearby medical school.
With an atmospherically gloomy day to help us, we tried (in vain) to find the Thomas Riddle gravestone that JK Rowling borrowed for her books. We did, however, see a few other key character names amongst the tombs - McGonagal etc, and had lunch at the cafe she still credits for being kind enough to let her nurse a cup of coffee all day to stay warm and write the first Harry Potter.
The waiting staff there were keeping sharp eyes on any lingerers though, having suffered through a few other billionaire-wannabes trying to get a sniff of the inspiration JK found in their cafe. The cappuccino cake was nice though, and Sapph thought her lamb and mint pie was pretty decent too.
Great achievement - Encyclopaedia Brittanica - but a very, very unfortunate name. William Smellie...... In Australia, the cheaper and local version was 'Funk and Wagnalls.' Adverts at the time would feature a kid asking something improbable like, 'Where do sesame seeds come from?' and a voice-over would gleefully say, "Look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls!" Best not to say that phrase too fast or with a mouth full of toffee.
A unicorn, resting a hoof on the Scottish coat of arms whilst also holding up the St Andrews flag along the Royal Mile. It's tempting to now write, 'your argument is invalid' ala the popular meme or 'enough said' but he sits proudly at the top of a small stone tower used to make (yell, presumably) announcements to the local populace.
On the ground were wooden doors that were used to punish shop lifters caught red-handed at the nearby market. If captured, the thief had their ear nailed to the door and had a terrible choice to make:
A) To remain there for twenty four hours without touching their ear and endure the encouraged likelihood of locals kicking, spitting or emptying their night jars on you as well as enduring hunger, cold and wet pants; or
B) Leave the post at any time within that twenty four hours by tearing your ear off the nail.
Unfortunately the first case would undoubtedly cause you to perish in the night or endure a terrible, deathly infection and the second resulted in a missing chunk of ear that instantly identified you as a thief and therefore likely to be refused jobs, food or even permission to live in the town. I wonder if that's where the term 'ear marked' comes from?
Bobby the dog was owned by a local policeman, John Grey, and always accompanied him on his rounds in the very dodgy areas of Edinburgh. Several years later, John contracted TB and died and Bobby stayed by his grave, living for at least a decade afterwards. He became rather famous and was looked after by the Greyfriars rector and locals, who regularly left him food and treats. It is now a tradition to leave sticks for him to chase at his grave.
- Sapphire trying and enjoying Haggis.
- "Aye, but ye canna go roond that whey," said the taxi driver and Sapphire whispering, "Can you actually understand what he's saying, Mum?"
- Bag pipe players. EVERYWHERE. In fact, the above pictures are rare for NOT containing any of them, but their strangled beagle sounds were always heard.
- Our deliciously hearty English full cooked breakfast but with Scottish extras of haggis and oatcake. Sapphire was primed to tell the waitress that she wanted a 'full English breakfast' but came out with, "I want the FULL SAUSAGE." I'm still wondering if I'm a suitable role model because we laughed and joked about it for the rest of the trip.
- Nits. Again. "No, I don't want to do it monkey style," said my younger Foghorn Leghorn when I suggested a quick check. More immature giggling ensued; mostly from me.
- Me and cider. Local brews and a gorgeous strawberry one from Sweden. Why hasn't it travelled across the channel to mainland Europe...?
- Cadbury Creme eggs all over the place and for half the price they'd be in Australia.
- A tray of beef lasagne abandoned in the crisp packet aisle in Sainsburys. Obviously bought out of habit before the brain started to ask, "But is it really beef, or is Phar Lap's descendent in there too?"
...and heading back to our cosy room to flop on the bed, enjoy a cup of tea and read all the broadsheet weekend newspapers with my darling travel companion.