Echoes of Glasgow

Way back in 2008, we were dealing with a horrible neighbor in Glasgow who felt that he needed to bring the pub party back to his basement flat … beneath us. It was truly awful, and exhausting, dealing with police who wouldn’t take any action, and a pipsqueak of a neighbor who just couldn’t understand that we needed rest, even if he didn’t.

Fast forward to another flat, and 8 years later, when the neighbor upstairs (again in Glasgow) decided to put on an album … and promptly pass out, leaving us to endure horrible bass going all night long.

You can imagine our consternation when the bass started up last night, here in Newark. After a few hours of hoping and waiting, when 10 p.m. rolled around I phoned the police … who asked where we lived … and then told us they’d been getting calls since about 6 p.m. and there was nothing they could do about it.

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Above is a shot taken from our driveway, looking out towards the Dumbarton bridge. We’re perfectly situated for Shoreline Amphitheater to blast the bass all the way across the bay, directly towards us, and for us to have to endure some other city’s lack of noise ordinance. Grr.

-D

Glasgow Botanical Gardens – Happy Birthday!

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Glasgow Botanic Gardens is turning 200 years old! It certainly looks like they had a fabulous day for it (their Twitter feed has some video and pictures). On a day like today is supposed to be here in California, we’d probably not have visited the Botanics, as they tend to be much warmer inside than out. In Glasgow’s fog and dreich, though, we’ve loved being inside, looking at all the flowers and statuary.

Enjoy your weekend!

-D & T

Many Happy Returns

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Wood, wood, wood. Everywhere.

No – in fact we weren’t celebrating the 239th birthday of independence in the U.S. – although that’s nothing to sniff over. We were referring to the happy return to the city where toilets flush like Niagra, cab drivers tell you their life stories and ask probing personal questions, and where a few of our really dear friends still live – we’ve returned to Glasgow.

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Home of antiquities in architecture, and glass door knobs

You may ask, as we often ask ourselves, why we’re back here. We asked ourselves laughingly, as we arrived in a hissing downpour, during the after work commute traffic on Thursday, drove through slightly dodgy neighborhoods enroute to our flat, and listened to our cab driver whinge to us about his mother in law. (Okay, kidding about that last. But it has happened before.)

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The view from the front room.

We finally decided it’s more about us than about Glasgow; more about who we are when we’re here than the place itself. It’s kind of representative of our shared college experiences – only we were much older in this charmed time and place than we were as undergraduates, thus less apt to take for granted finding our tribe. We enjoyed the academic atmosphere, the variety of lectures open to the public, and that no one – on the West End of the city, anyway – thinks anything of people who read in public and ignore everyone around them. There are places to be a hermit, and places to emerge from “hermitude” and eat supper while watching ping pong tournaments. It felt oddly like non-adult life, and it’s fun to return to that, albeit briefly.

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And Glasgow welcomed us back with style! Well, in Glasgow-style, anyway. We were sitting in the front room, having a quiet read/doze in the overcast afternoon, with the sky pewter gray and the breeze whipping through the trees outside… and then we hear the sound of dripping. From inside.

…Oh, no. OH NO!

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Oh, yes. Water ran down this chain and splattered.

The exchange of disbelieving looks! The scrambling for mop buckets! The dash to hail the neighbor upstairs! It was all so familiar! We truly felt we were back, at that moment. And then we spent the next hour in intermittent snickers. Good old Georgian-era houses and ridiculous plumbing. (Apparently the neighbor upstairs was using the kitchen tap… somehow, the pipes objected. He now promises not to use the tap until Monday when someone can come in and look at the thing… We don’t dare turn on the overhead light in the front room, we’re sure we’ll short out the whole house. Good times, people. Good times.

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The bedroom light fixture.

Happy Fourth. May your fireworks be safe, and here’s hoping that the boiler doesn’t blow up.

And so, this morning…

To Scotland, however you should find yourself, this morning:

Oh, the many faces you showed us in our five years of living with you, Scotland – quirky, bloodyminded, crazed, strange, silly, ferocious, friendly, angry, vivid, cautious, different.

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Town ride, Kilsyth.

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A Shopping Fool, Stirling

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Hens night oot! Bishopton

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Springtime STYLIN’ in Stirling.

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New friends, Quayside, Glasgow

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Friendly adversaries, Charing Cross.

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Old friends, Quayside

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Sassy. West End, Glasgow.

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Silly…Largs.

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Sweet. Bishopton.

Each face is you, and what makes you, you.

And, on this first morning, when neighbors step out to the newsagent together, and eyes meet over coffee, when the endless news reports are spilling through the airways, we think of lovely, complex, vital you, and with your wise poet, we say:

The Morning After

Scotland, September 19th, 2014

Let none wake despondent: one way
or another we have talked plainly,
tested ourselves, weighed up the sum
of our knowing, ta’en tent o scholars,
checked the balance sheet of risk and
fearlessness, of wisdom and of folly.

It’s those unseen things that bind us,
not flag or battle-weary turf or tartan.
There are dragons to slay whatever happens:
poverty, false pride, snobbery, sectarian
schisms still hovering. But there’s
nothing broken that’s not repairable.

Read the whole of the poem by Christine De Luca at the Scottish Poetry Library, or listen to new voters recite it below.

To this varied and rich — and yes, freezing cold, gray, and hard-to-live-in-for-sun-hungry-Californians nation, today we say you have indeed dragons yet to slay, no matter what – regardless of what must be staggering disappointment for some, we Americans, accustomed to bitterly picking up and going on as well, salute you. You have done what we cannot – you have galvanized voices, and made people care. 97% voter registration throughout the country is AMAZING. Look at you! Now that your nation is awake and engaged — you have new eyes open, and new voices speaking and new hearts boasting of courage. We fully expect you to embrace the democratic Utopia America has not as yet – and may never – achieve.

Nemo Me Impune Lacessit


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Good on ya, Scotland, no matter what.

“Come, Friends Who Plough the Sea…” The BBC Penzance Vid, aka, “The Wayback Machine Produces The D. Show”

Way back in 2011, we sang along with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. At the time, we didn’t post this, because there was no way for friends and fam in the U.S. to view the video unless you were in the UK. NOW, though, if you install a browser plug-in called Media Hint you’ll be able to watch the video embedded below (or on the BBC at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00hwd69)! Of course, with that plug-in you’ll also be able to watch BBC’s iPlayer and Channel 4 and ITV without any troubles.

D. has, of course, rewatched this, and asked himself why he ever cut his hair. BE AFRAID.


If one has forty minutes to spare, one can view and hear this entire epic …rehearsal/performance; those with less time should pause at 13.28, and through the entire song “With Catlike Tread” (tarantara tarantara…) at 21.00 to see D. bellowing away in true pirate style. T. is only visible briefly as a speck around 21.47, because she sat as far away from cameras as possible — even without knowing where they were. (One simply must admire such mad camera avoidance skills as these.) D. dominates the video, as he sat fourth row, smack dab in the middle — if one doesn’t see his earnest, shining face and stripey shirt, one sees the back of his head and his ponytail. Yes, our D. has broken into show business. At least, on the BBC website…

Unfortunate microphone pick-up brings us some incredibly enthused, yet off-key tenors, and it was funny for us to see microphones, since none of our performances — in four years — have included them. NONE. However, since we were the backup, it was nice to hear the soloists!

-D & T

“Safe Journey Home”

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And so we’ve reached the end of our fortnight, full of images and encounters, including this LOVELY example of “Glasgow toile.” Now, for those of you who were Trading Spaces/Changing Rooms fans, you know how toile is this high-end, hoity-toity fabric that designers like to cover things with all over the house. We’re going to suggest that the Glasgow Toile is NAE what ye want on your wall coverings. While these plates show only the smallest section of the beauties of this fair and filthy city – someone shooting up, and someone peeing against a tree – the full fabric panels have hard looking mums pushing prams, drunks crashed out on park benches, a guy with a crack pipe, wee neds gathered on bikes, tower housing, and ugly, scabrous looking seagulls. It also has Glasgow landmarks clearly noted, like the Uni, the Clyde crane, the Armadillo, etc. It’s a great gag, but it’s ruinously expensive, at over a hundred pounds a meter, and we don’t imagine most people do much sewing with it… at £75, probably a decorative plate is even out of the question!

T. has suffered through leaving – her beloved Seconds again (plus agreeable adopted tenor) and we’ve seen our Uni friends, and made arrangements to see each other soon – at the beginning of the year, maybe in the summer – and through the abruptly cold and dark afternoon, they have gone, with hugs and waves, and choruses of “Safe journey home.”

Safe journey home. It’s a lovely wish.

Like with most holidays, we are “caked out;” while we have been strenuously walking around and have the ability still to fit into all of our clothes, we have rediscovered that you can only have tea and scones so many times before you are longing for some plain beans and avocados. Time, indeed, to go home.

Safe journey, with side trips for one more cake…

We have truly enjoyed ourselves, and enjoyed some of the rich plethora of choices on offer in a multiple-university town. First, we enjoyed the organ for the Chapel Choir Choral Interlude – and a very modern composer, full of atonal chords and all manner of dissonance. We went away… thoughtful. (Some of the thoughts included “What was that?! but those are good thoughts, too.) Our next was an All Souls service at St. Mary’s, where the Malcolm Archer requiem was performed. It reminded us a bit of the Duruflé, and we enjoyed the Pié Jesu and the Sanctus very much, though the rest was a tad derivative.

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Our final musical fêtê was to attend an old-fashioned Singin’ School! We enjoyed a shape note workshop and learned the rudiments of the bizarrely shaped notes and the “fa-so-la” from The Sacred Harp with leader Tim Erikssen, who is sort of the end-all, be-all for the shape note folks in the Northeast. (You know you have arrived when you have your own Wikipedia page, and used to tour with Nirvana…) His energetic leadership whipped us into shape, and we ended the night with our heads stuffed full of knowledge, and with our ears ringing with the loud and hearty sounds of “hardcore Americana.” We’re hopeful he’ll someday come to the West Coast; he’s an amazing ethnomusician, full of facts and an excellent fiddler and vocalist as well.

Tomorrow, we’re off to Iceland for a few days, to luxuriate in the sulfurous stink of Keflavik and the lovely Blue Lagoon. Our hair will be a matted mess when we fly home, but we’ll be awfully relaxed. Our minds will be, hopefully, less conflicted as well. It was a joy to be here; it is a wrench to leave, and yet — this isn’t where we’re meant to be. We are not home yet. We’re still travelers – pilgrims and strangers, as it were.

Safe journey home. May we all arrive, someday.

Oh, for…

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Gratuitous cathedral picture, just because.

Would it BE a trip to the UK, if the boiler didn’t go out????

What is this effect we have on boilers, that even the flat we rented for a holiday — which was working JUST FINE when we came, though it, like the whole building, is ancient — immediately dies? WHY must it quit working just when we’ve had a spate of cloudless – and immediately much more cold – weather?? And to think they just had the boiler guy out the day before we arrived…!

We remain thankful for the invention of space heaters and electric showers.

From pretty much our first day in, we’ve had a steady stream of guests and invitations. We feel like we’ve walked all over the entire West End and parts East as well, but it’s been good. Plans next week include brunches with university friends, some more crafty activities including making lanterns in advance of the Feast of St. Martin (celebrated by our German friends), coffee dates and dinner with the Superb Second Sopranos, and a chance to hear about their Poland tour. And then, lovely Iceland calls!

Thanks to all who have asked; the storm that hit Southern England was nowhere near us in the North, and we felt no more cold and wind than usual. We’re fine and dry, with our space heaters…

Happy Weekend, happy November!

Famous Friends

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Back when our blog was named “Wish I Were Baking,” and when we actually made an effort to focus on food and the occasional knitting project, we met a blogger by the name of Pille whose beautiful food blog was an inspiration – and also kind of terrifying, as she baked and cooked seemingly endlessly, plating up perfectly turned out dishes, photographed stunningly, nearly every day. Also, she hunted for wild mushrooms, gardened, picked berries, canned, made jams… you get the picture. We – Hobbits now – still know her, and are applauding from the blogosphere sidelines. This month, she’s on the cover Estonian version of “Family and Home” magazine!

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As mentioned, we met Pille through her blog and actually got the chance to meet her when we first got to Scotland, as she was finishing up the last details from her PhD here and we overlapped by a weekend. We met her again for lunch when we went to her lovely country, Estonia, for a work-related trip for D. We ate outdoors at a Russian restaurant, and enjoyed an unusual meal (still not sure how we feel about pickles and honey), surrounded by a historical festival in the ancient part of the city, with stunningly costumed dancers and singers. It was like Estonian Disneyland, seriously, only far better. Eventually, Estonia will figure into our travel plans again, and we’ll finally meet Pille’s adorable kids.

Since she’s published a cookbook, Pille has obviously been in print before. She was in the Estonian Marie Clare a while ago, listed as a successful chef and mother, and certainly her food has been included in magazine spreads all over, complete with her sharp photography, but she’s never been a cover girl until now.

Congratulations again, Pille & family! We can now say “we knew you when!”

-D & T

Behold! The PhD Is Done (ish)

Today’s Best Line: “Congratulations! You’ve passed your PhD!”

Today’s Second Best Line: “You know I’m never to call you Doctor, right? Ever.”

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Well. I passed the viva voce exam today, receiving 2 months in which to complete “minor corrections.” I defended my PhD thesis, and have no substantive changes to make. Now, by “substantive,” they mean that, “it’s good research, there are no flaws in the methodology or in the information presented, but you need to make it hang together a bit better – to tell the reader what you’re going to say, to walk them through the whole research a bit more, to join the bits together.” So – my guess is that that means about 40 or so more paragraphs in which I break things down for a larger audience, a bit of re-captioning, and (of course) the inevitable few typos which sneak into any large body of work.

Does this feel “real” yet? Well … not so much. I think it’ll feel more real when I really get through with making these changes. However: the research and degree have been defended to everyone’s satisfaction, and I have until the end of March to nail down the last few changes and get them approved by the internal examiner. So. I guess, put that way, it’s real.

What this means for us, in the short-term, is that we’ll be extending the student visas for a short time, and that we’ll also be able to qualify for post-study-work visas. The post-study visa allows us to stay here for another 2 years – and lets me find the right research job, rather than having to jump at whichever position is willing to take me immediately.

We have some celebrating to do (or, perhaps, sleeping, since I haven’t really slept in the last four days). We feel much safer, as we have a bit of breathing room.

-D

Edited To Add: Yes, that same won’t-call-me-doctor voice keeps saying, “I told you it would be fine.” Perhaps after a good night’s sleep, I’ll stop hearing that little mutter following me around…