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Posts Tagged ‘britain’

The one o’ clock cannon, as taken by a tourist at Edinburgh Castle

I’m in Princes Street Gardens right now, trying to relax. Trying. A family on the bench across from me is definitely not in happy land, cursing the daylights out of each other. The mother has a perma-scowl and curses her children for anything they do. “Don’t sit like that!” “Don’t walk around!” “Don’t make a noise!” “Why aren’t you talking to me?!” and on and on. The only time I saw her crack a smile was when the one o’clock gun blasted from the Castle, making the kids jump and hide. Such a sadist.

I must admit the blast scared me as well. In the two months I’ve been here, this was the first time I’d been near the Edinburgh Castle around one o’ clock. I’d forgotten about this tradition, thought it was a fatal car bomb, and nearly soiled my trousers.

Speaking of which, my coworker Luci and her friend Barry worked at the Edinburgh Tourist Office and said their favourite tourist question was: “Where does the cannonball land when the 1 o’ clock cannon strikes?” Right on your head, madam. Right on your head.

I watched the “Songwriter’s Circle Program” on BBC2 last night, a wonderful program showcasing four different artists and their best acoustic tunes. I swooned when I heard Nick Cave. The CBC back home should take some tips from the BBC – I swear, their music industry is only where it is because the national broadcasters take time to promote it.

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scotland018Getting closer to the poo stench at Bass Rock, North Berwick

I had to wait at the bus stop for a good 45 minutes early this morning, barely a soul was shaking, let alone breathing, on the street. I wasn’t aware bus service was this infrequent heading from Edinburgh to North Berwick. But it was a good thing – the other lone person on the street, a fairly funky lad, strolled over to the shelter with his backpack and waited for me to turn around to say, “Are you Canadian?”

I didn’t have a sewn flag on my backpack, so I wondered how he clued in.

Benjamin was an Aussie who’d lived in Prince George, BC for three years, where he became familiar with the brand Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), a Canadian backpacker institution, whose logo was emblazoned on my own backpack.

Turns out Ben is now living in the tiny hamlet of Dirleton with his girlfriend, who he was returning to after a wee trip to the city. We had a good convo until he had to disembark, but I got their details should I land in the town again for a visit. Wheee!

The weather in North Berwick wasn’t as favourable as the forecast predicted. It’s quite grey and chilly, but it somehow suits this seaside town. It’s fresh, peaceful and rugged at the same time. I took a boat ride to Bass Rock, a craggy island just a bit off the coastline, home of many puffins and consequently, home of the stench of the puffin poo. Though we didn’t actually stop to walk around the island, the trip was well worth it. Mmm.

On my way home, I stopped at Tesco’s for the wonderful Sunday evening pastry bargains. I walked out with two custard pastries for 10p each! Yummay!

Now, here in the Meadows, with custard pastries in hand, and this book in the other, I’m relaxing… enjoying Scotland. A flutist is playing in the distance. I’m in love.

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“Mr. Telephone Man” – New Edition

Our phone line has been disconnected for four days now, and the customer service reps at British Telecom are not doing squat about it. We’ve made a number of complaints into the call centre and we’ve gotten a flurry of “But you didn’t pay your bill” (yes we did) and “We are working on the issue” or some other rubbish. Four. Days. Britain fails in the customer service department, to be sure, to be sure.

I’m not a phone addict or anything — especially here in the UK, where local calls are charged by the minute. However, I’d like to have the convenience of the phone at my fingertips when required. Talking to someone from a phone box is depressing.

And it’s not only our flat; it seems as if a number of my friends here have had recent problems with British Telecom. This week alone, I’ve encountered problems with my friend Marci’s line, and Allison’s phone has been periodically on the fritz. I’ll be sending a letter of complaint to BT. Pronto.

I made some curry for Lyndsey and I with a jar of that Patak’s curry-in-a-minute sauce. It turned out reasonably fine, and we sat in the flat watching the Truman Show with Nic, Allan and Mark.

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I like the rep theatres here in Edinburgh. For a city of this size (approx. 450,000), the arts community is quite impressive. I suppose the massive Edinburgh International Festival, due in two months, is a big reason why you simply can’t get away from something good.

My roomie Sebastian, his friend, and I went to see a Scottish film, Orphans. It was quite dark, rough, just like all Scottish movies seem to be. Continuing in that dark vein, we planned to watch Trainspotting together, on his last day in the city, but with over ten people crammed in our tiny living room, I opted to write a few postcards instead, in my dark dank windowless room with the red light bulb. Yes, I’m serious, I have a red light bulb. Welcome to Connie’s lair.

My other roomie Mark made us a wonderful curry dish and “chocolate pudding”. This isn’t isn’t the chocolate pudding of the North American style, but rather a soft spongey cake with heaps of chocolate sauce running through it. We were rapt in pleasure.

In other money-making, ching, ching news, I’ve gotten a welcome work extension, where I will get to spend the rest of my days in Edinburgh, writing up human resource policies. I’m jiggling with excitement! A real corporate job! Watch out, Bay Street!

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Edinburgh, Scotland | On Arthur's Seat

I conquered Arthur’s Seat (a plateau right next to the city, covered with panting tourists ready to roll off the steep hill), but because of my poor health and general wimpiness, I had to stop quite a bit. Unfortunately, it was bitterly cold and a lot of tiny bugs were flapping around my head, so I couldn’t stop for long. I also didn’t realize I had taken the steeper, more challenging route, which definitely exacerbated my exhaustion. Still, espite my whining, it got me some great snaps and was well worth the trek.

I headed over to the Meadows Festival (ed: which has now been closed since 2005) and celebrated my hiking accomplishment by buying Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. For 50p!

The apartment, er, FLAT is excellent. I’m comfortable, my roommates are wonderful, and they can all COOK. They are all boys and they can cook without recipes! I look like such an idiot in comparison.

Speaking of food, the day before Justin left, we headed over to Nine’s for a little get-together with Jen and Lyndsey from London. Lyn made everyone a heaping serving of jambalaya, which was absolutely amazing. Even the Japanese guy who barely spoke English paused, sighed and whispered, “This… is amazing”, as if he were having an orgasm. Unfortunately, a home video was popped into the VCR and my eyes started to water with fatigue. We had to leave early. We got a few ice cream bars and went home.

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I had to go up and down the elevators at work today, fetching interview candidates for my manager. At the end of the day, my manager asked me what I thought of all the candidates, and the one I favoured most personality-wise turned out to be the most empty of them all. Just shows you how bad my first impressions are.

I went to Burger King to get a new kid’s meal toy and they were playing a Barenaked Ladies song. Hearing that, combined with seeing my own boyfriend and two girls from Ontario, it all seems like I’m really just living a life in Canada.

Jen and Lyndsey were a bit tired from their trek into Edinburgh, so we settled for quiet drinks at the Meadow Bar and Iguana, an ultra trendy i’m-too-sexy for you pub. I had my one cider and black, in an attempt to save money. 40% of my paycheque was sucked up by the tax man.

Consequently, my diet is reliant on cheap yogurt at Tesco’s, 30p sausage rolls from Gregg’s bakery and crisps. I adore the crisps. I want to try every kind. And oh, the selection! So far, I’ve conquered: Ayrshire Bacon & Brown Sauce (my favourite), Salt & Vinegar, Plain, Tomato, Roast Chicken, Pickled Onion, Cheese & Onion, Paprika. I have yet to lay my tongue on Worcester, T-Bone Steak and Prawn Cocktail. This is absolutely nutty.

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Example of a car boot sale near London

No word on a work extension yet. I’d feel a little more at ease if I could stay at one job for the entire summer, but, alas, this is how the temp world functions: welcome to this life of uncertainty.

I met up with Cheung, a girl from Hong Kong, and we went to a “car boot sale”. Thinking I misunderstood her accent, I clarified whether she meant “car booth”, which didn’t make any more sense to me than “car boot”, but in some twisted way this interpretation made me feel better. Unbeknownst to me, a “boot” is basically British slang for the trunk of the car. Thus, a “car boot sale” is like a big yard sale, with people selling things straight from the back of their car. This particular one was held in a vast indoor parking lot and, to my surprise, I ended up with a few purchases: an Adrian Mole for Justin as a goodbye gift and some cheap batteries for my walkman.

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