Monday, July 30, 2012

Days 6-8: Scotland, Rain, and Haggis (Crivens!)

Notas Buenos:

It is commonly understood that haggis is a traditional Scottish dish. It is not commonly understood* why the consumption of haggis has not become popular in the United States of America.

*This statement may not be entirely true, but no matter…

It is commonly misunderstood outside of Scotland that haggis is an unsavory dish made of unsavory things. For example, take’s scandalous definition:

haggis: a traditional pudding made of the heart, liver, etc., of a sheep or calf, minced with suet and oatmeal, seasoned, and boiled in the stomach of the animal

It must be understood outside of Scotland (as it is certainly understood within beautiful Scotland) that haggis is, in fact, a delectable dish made from a three-legged mammal that inhabits the Scottish highlands.

The haggis, this a rare mammal that inhabits those aforementioned Scottish highlands, has three legs, and it runs in only one direction for the entire duration of its life*.

*Perhaps a slight exaggeration. It has been suggested** that a haggis would, perhaps, change course by a few degrees for a liter of Irn Bru***.

**Most recently suggested, as in, in the duration of this writing.

***Irn Bru is a soft drink, like Coca Cola, except that Irn Bru is orange and it’s not allowed in the United States of America. So, in that respect, it’s not like Coca Cola. At all.

When caught and prepared traditionally for a traditional Scottish dinner, the haggis is a feast much to be savored.

In summary: Ah dinnae ken why ye wouldnae eat haggis.

Oxford Strikes Back Days 6-8:
Scotland, Rain, and Haggis (Crivens!)

Stardate: Friday, July 6, 2012

“Train Delays and Dead Salmon”

This was that day I went to visit my friend, James Shrimpton, in Dundee Scotland. (Actually, it was the first of three days that I went to visit him.)

On Friday morning, I left my room in plenty of time to catch my train because I didn’t want any train-travel-disaster like that Nottingham-Birmingham-12-hour-debacle that I’ve mentioned before.

On the way, I realized that I had left my umbrella in my room. (I realized that because it started raining on me and I didn’t have my umbrella.)

But I was going to Scotland for a weekend. I didn’t need to turn around and get my umbrella, because why would it be raining in Scotland? (Besides, I had left my room with plenty of time…but not that much “plenty of time” to turn around.)

There was some travel drama when flooding delayed my train from Birmingham New Street to Haymarket in Edinburgh. After making up lost time over an hour or two, I had hopes that I would make the connection in Haymarket, but we had to take some strange detour or another just when we had the advantage. Advantage lost. So I missed my connection by two minutes.

Fortunately, my international phone didn’t work, and I wasn’t able to text James that I would be an hour late.

Er, let’s try that again, shall we?

Fortunately, a nice man texted James on my behalf, and told him that I would be an hour late.

That’s better. Almost.

Unfortunately, James misread the text and thought that I would be an hour early. But we made the connection nonetheless.

Crivens! I had arrived in Scotland!

For dinner, we had chicken fajitas, dead* salmon, and stories of defending the chickens in the war against the foxes. For dessert, we had cold stewed rhubarb** and strawberries and cream.

*It was certainly dead. Very well cooked, very dead, and very delicious.

**It was sweetened cold stewed rhubarb, but I didn’t know it was sweetened at the first taste.

James displays his Tower of Orthanc diorama.

Then James showed me his Lord of the Rings miniatures and Terry Pratchett books, and we all discussed Saturday’s travel plans to Saint Andrew’s while sitting on the stairs. (The stairs in James’s house – not the stairs at Saint Andrew’s. James’s stairs were quite comfortable. I cannot comment on any stairs in Saint Andrew’s, not having sat on any of them.)

Stardate: Saturday, July 7, 2012

“Saint Andrew’s and Three-Legged Mammals”

On Saturday, we went to the city of Saint Andrew’s (as per our plans set on the stairs in Dundee) to see the sights and the sites. Saint Andrew’s was an important religious center a few hundred years ago. Pilgrims would travel days and weeks for the festivals in the city. It was a solemn act of penance for some, who would weigh themselves down with rocks or other things to remind themselves that this was no holiday.

Thankfully, hundreds of years later, I was on holiday with friends and without rocks weighing me down.

Old gateway to the city.

A tree said to have been planted by Mary, Queen of Scots.

Ruins of Saint Andrew's Cathedral and adjoining graveyard. It rained all day, and I (of course) had forgotten my umbrella. Why would I need it? It's only Scotland.

The coast. That's the North Sea, and France is somewhere thataway.

Walking to Saint Andrew's Castle.

We stepped inside a café to get out of the rain, and there we had scones and hot chocolate with (whipped) cream, (marsh)mellows, and (delicious chocolate) flake.

I think we must make chocolate flake mandatory in all of our servings of hot chocolate here in the States.

Part of the campus of Saint Andrew's University, the oldest university in Scotland. The campus is spread throughout the city. Prince William attended Saint Andrew's University.

We stopped here to eat our packed lunches, and there was a timeline of Saint Andrew’s University history that I found instructive…and most amusing.

I recorded the events that I found most interesting:

1470: Several Masters and students expelled for attacking the Dean with bows and arrows.
1544: The University bans beards, the carrying of weapons, gambling, and football.
1930s: University bans Raisin Monday for excessive rowdiness.

I looked up Raisin Monday because the name was too bizarre to ignore. The explanation from the first article I found was predictable enough: a rite of passage for the first years involving alcohol, frivolity, and assorted traditions which, no doubt, endear Raisin Weekend every year to the hearts of the Saint Andrew’s populace and the city’s police force.

West Sands. This the beach from the opening scene of the film Chariots of Fire.

That night, we had a delicious dinner of haggis, turnip, and mash.

Mmmm, haggis.

Mmmm, Irn Bru.

Then James, myself, and two of the students at their house (Kate and Joshua), played a board game based on Terry Pratchett’s city of Ankh-Morpork in Discworld. It was hilarious and entertaining. Each player is a different character from the books, and they each have different winning conditions. James won (of course) as Commander Vimes.

Stardate: Sunday, July 8, 2012

“Burger King and the Green Wobbly Bit”

On Sunday, I went to Saint Peter’s Church with Mr. Shrimpton and James. Saint Peter’s Church was famously home to Robert Murray McCheyne, an influential minister of the Church of Scotland.

Memorial of Robert Murray McCheyne

In the service, we sang “Amazing Grace,” (quite appropriate in Scotland) and a version of “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us,” but with 1 John 1:1-3 used instead of the original words.

Then we went to a sister church of Saint Peter’s (which was just concluding a weeklong event like our Vacation Bible Schools in the States) to have a lunch of burgers and sausages. I met some of James’s friends, and they were absolutely fascinated by the fact that Adam’s Center (dorm) at the University of Oklahoma has* a Burger King on the first floor**.

Some of the girls wanted to come to the States for university so they could enjoy Burger King in Adam’s Center.

*Had, actually. Burger King has, thankfully, given way to a Cane’s Chicken.

**First floor in the States is the ground floor in Europe. First floor in Europe is the second floor in the States. If you were looking for Burger King on the European first floor of Adam’s Center, you would be disappointed and confused, and you would confuse some freshmen. Whether the freshmen would be disappointed or not would probably depend on the day and the circumstances in their individual lives.

I can’t say that I shared the girls’ zeal for Burger King. I’ll have to introduce them to local hamburger places here in Fort Worth. Either way, I must have been too absorbed by the conversation, because Mrs. Shrimpton reminded me to “stop talking and get more food!” (Those are orders I can follow without delay!)

I got dessert just in time, because after I loaded up my plate with sweeties, someone came along and took away the sweeties.

Then it was time to pack a lunch (a very generous packed lunch, with those excellent Scottish strawberries that I miss here in Tejas) and catch my train for England.

About seven hours later, at ten o’clock, I was back in Oxford. Thank God, in spite of floods and train delays around the country, I had no problem getting home, in spite of the fact that I went through Wolverhampton and Birmingham*.

(I had about 2 minutes to change trains in Wolverhampton, and I had to run over the bridge and around the station looking for my train before learning that my new train was pulling into the same platform that my other train had just left. Ha.)

*Wolverhampton and Birmingham were part of that notorious 12 hour travel-disaster episode that I’ve mentioned before.

And thus concluded a wonderful weekend with great people in a beautiful country.

Unfortunately, while I was in that beautiful country, I could not remember that the driver’s side was on the right, so I kept on walking to the right side – and then I just had to keep on walking around the car to the passenger side.

“I’ll be driving, Steven, if you don’t mind.”

Oh, well. Maybe I can return someday, and then I’ll remember which side is the passenger side.

But you would be proud of me, James. I remembered not to eat the green wobbly bit*.

*An obscure reference to Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, and an even obscurer reference to a clever comment made by James whilst we were packing the packed lunch. There, now you don’t feel so left out, do you?

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