Sisters

There’s only one news on telly lately, and it is about the fire in London. If you are not from the UK, and have not heard about the story already, here’s the short version of the news.

A 24 storey tower block caught fire in the middle of the night few days ago. The fire was so big, and spread so fast, the fire department could not get inside and save everybody in time. As the result, many people died, and until the time I am writing this, the officials haven’t been able to announce exactly how many fatalities, and their identification.

The fire was so unexpected, as the UK is probably one of few countries with a very strict building regulations. The investigation is still ongoing, so how exactly things went catastrophically wrong hasn’t been announced. However, this tragedy has lead the re-evaluation to other residential tower blocks in the country, especially those with similar structure and building materials.

Right now, what was the rescue mission, is now a recovery mission. The officials now believe that it is very unlikely that anyone would survive the fire by now. Even the recovery mission is going very slowly, as the integrity of the building itself has now become questionable after the fire. The survivors, the residents, and their family and friends are now very impatient and restless, understandably.

As the recovery mission going, and people waiting, the stories of everybody who are affected by the fire started to trickle. The heroic rescuers, the desperate mothers, the grieving lovers. Every story is painful, but there’s one that feels very personal to me.

There’s a story about three brothers who lived in one of the flat in the building. Two of them were there when the fire started to spread. The older brother told the younger one to run to save himself, just before he himself run towards the think and heavy black smoke. He didn’t look back, I think he was almost passed out himself because he has been inhaling so much smoke.

When he was out, he realised that the younger brother wasn’t with him, so he phoned the younger brother to make sure that he’s escaped as well. He wasn’t. In fact, the younger brother was still in their flat, and trapped there.

“Why didn’t you get out?” the older brother asked.

“Why did you leave me?” the younger brother replied.

The older brother begged the rescuers to save the younger brother, giving them the flat number, but it was too late. The other brother was still connected on the phone, right until the last second — when the phone finally died.

That story.

That particular story saddened me the most, because I have siblings too. My two sisters and I once shared a flat too. The three of us lived in a tower block, probably not to dissimilar to this one in London. So, when I heard this story, I couldn’t help thinking of my sisters, and how I would feel if I was in the position of the older brother.

What if I lost my sister in such a tragedy? Even thinking about it made me extemely sad.

Unfortunately it is not too long until I will see them again. Time to refuel my spaceship for a quick visit…

 

The Manly Husbandly Duty of The Lord of Grumpness

This is actually something that I would like to mention on my last post, but I think Grumpy deserves a whole blog entry dedicated to acknowledge his awesomeness this weekend.

First of all, this weekend was supposed to be the kind of anniversary of the day we first met. Five years ago, we met on the city centre — taking the online advice on how to meet up with a total stranger very seriously — always meet up on a public space. We were planning on going to the place where we met for the first time, and had some coffee — or hot choco, like what we had at that time. Well, that was the plan before the game happened, so that definitely didn’t happen.

But, none of us were disappointed. Especially not me. And this is why my dear Grumpy deserves this whole entry just for him.

  1. The pink Hello Wolvie t-shirt.
    I think that’s quite self explanatory, except for the “Hello Wolvie” bit. Basically it is the cute mix between Hello Kitty, and Wolverine. Don’t snort, or I will claw you in the face… the Hello-Wolvie is incredibly cute, so if you are a kind of snobbish purist, please look away when I flaunt it, thank you very much.
  2. The Spark(y) in the Kitchen
    I learned not so long time ago, that in the UK, electrician is also called Sparky. This weekend, my husband took away their job by just awesomely FIX my oven. Yes, the brownie maker broke last week, and it would take £100++ to fix it if we call in a Sparky to fix it. But we don’t need Sparky, because we have Grumpy.
    Now, THIS is the extra special bit. Grumpy doesn’t like fiddling with Sparky’s job, because he’s been working with the UK’s Health and Safety regulation for so long, that it is already embedded in his system. BUT, he knew how important that oven for me, and how I chose it myself from Curry’s, and how I love baking with it… And he deliberately woke up in the morning before I did, and fixed it, and tried it even before I woke up in the morning.
  3. The Brilliant White
    No, I am not talking about Grumpy’s race, or teeth. Actually, Brilliant White is the label in the paint tub. I am no sure why it is called Brilliant White, because it is just normal white… But of course, you have to make white paint sounds more interesting than what it is. This weekend, Grumpy was being the man of the week again, by painting our living room.

So yeah… That’s my man 🙂

P.S. Do you know that in German, Mann is the word for “man”, and “husband”? So maybe if this entry’s title is translated to German, it would be really weird. Luckily it is not in German. Just saying…

Steamy Summer Weekend… Oh So Much Fun!

Ha! I think there’s no harm in learning how to lure people with title that reminds you of a free evening tabloid on a tube station. Yep… We did have a Steamy Weekend, but not the sleazy, not-children-friendly kind of Steamy Weekend. First clue, of course, there is no such thing as a Steamy Summer in Britain. It is always the windy, slightly cold, or heatwave kind of summer in here. And, second of all, I am talking about Steam the game apps.

I downloaded the apps years ago, when someone told me that he would buy me a game. I had never had someone bought me a game before that day, and I thought that was quite a unique way to woo a girl. I mean, I am not really into flowers and chocolate, so… I did download the game. But I stopped contacting the aforementioned person, although I kept the apps, and the account… and the game.

Anyway… few days ago, I decided to go back there after one of my friends mentioned that Steam has summer sale. I wonder if there’s something I’d like. And there was this free game.

I was playing it when my Grumpkin came back from work, and I told him what it was. He took a glance, and he decided he’s going to try it too. Now both of us are hooked, and we spent the whole weekend — that was supposed to be spend somewhere else. We are bad like that..

But, anyway… I just realised that even when playing computer games, Grumpy is still grumping like no one’s listening — although in this case no one did listen, because I was playing the game too, and accidentally ignored his grumpyness completely. Ooops…

Anyway… time to sleep soon, hopefully we won’t get too absorbed into this game, and pull all-nighter playing, and feel horrible tomorrow.

The Magical City Of Edinburgh

Nossur! I am not trying to be overly dramatic by saying that. But let me ask you one thing… Are you a Potterhead? Well then, do you know that Edinburgh is actually the birthplace of The Boy Who Lived? Well then… if you don’t know what I am talking about, let me explain it to you in muggle terminology: “Edinburgh is actually the city where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter”.

Legend has it that J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter while sitting down at The Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh. The cafe has the spot overlooking the Edinburgh Castle, and it’s been said that it was then the lady herself breathed the life into the boy wizard.

Well… I am not a massive fan myself, so I didn’t get in to the cafe. In my defence, the cafe was jam packed with Potterheads, and my phone was dying, so all I wanted at that time was to find a place to sit and plug. So apologies for not getting photos.

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But you know what? I am not surprised that Ms. Rowling got her inspiration in this city. Not only by looking at the magnificent looking castle, I believe. The city itself offers an unlimited number of inspiration — the kind of inspiration that actually urge you to write, if you are into writing.

No, I am not overselling it, I bought a notepad because somehow I had so many thing in my head to write down, random stuff. In the hand of a more capable author, I won’t be surprised that it could end up as ten magical years of Harry Potter.

I mean, look at it. The castle, the cathedral, all the museums… the people… As someone who’s got an unhealthy appetite to languages, my ears were constantly spoiled with foreign languages around me. If I closed my eyes (I didn’t, by the way — for safety reasons, obviously) I could hear them chattering in different dialects, and languages. All of them… are aliens there. For that magical moment, I felt the sense of belonging — that I wasn’t the only alien.

That’s my personal magic moment, of course.

But, what if you don’t do Harry Potter (or you don’t read at all), and you don’t like language like me (or you don’t care about things like that)? Could you find magic in Edinburgh? Sure you can…

You know who does magic? Yes… yes… white magic, black magic? WITCHES! Yes!

If you are into that sort of thing, there are billions of ghost tours and witch hunt tour and show scattered all over the oldtown. I didn’t do it though, I though I saved it until I go back there again with my grumpkins, preferably not during the summer though…

Feeding The Alien: The Scottish Way

Where I came from, we have numerous regional food. Each province has their own way to do rice. Each city has their own kind of soup, or broth, or stew. Every time my friend and I talked about travelling locally, we would have a dedicated time of the day to savour the rich variety of food in my planet. Culinary travelling… That’s how we call it. Somehow, though, the possibility of local speciality food in Britain never occurred to me when I first arrived here.

Of course as time went by, I learned that faraway there on the South West part of the island they have Cornish Pasties, or here in Norfolk we are quite famous for our Cromer Crab. But that’s about it.

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British people are really good at making crisps, though. They’re very creative with these…

So, when I thought of travelling within the UK, culinary travelling has never crossed my mind. Yes, we do have gazillion castles, and ruins, and monasteries, and churches, and museums, and galleries, and everything that shouts history. But food… I remember one anecdote I heard before… “British people don’t have cuisine… They have food… ” Shame that I don’t really remember where I heard that.

The lack of finesse in culinary department was also depicted in Agatha Christie’s novel, where our beloved Belgian sleuth, Poirot had to deal with British food. That’s been the running joke, of course. I do love British food, and I think some of them are simply gorgeous. However coming from a culture that worship food, I can totally understand Poirot’s frustration

Therefore, after trying several fry-ups, and fish and chips, I have to admit that I didn’t have a lot of expectation about British food. And, all those rambling was just to justify my ignorance of Scottish food.

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The ignorant me thought that Scottish food means Oatcakes

 

 

The first time I went to Scotland was just to go to a rock concert. In the B&B, I was offered “Full Scottish Breakfast”. I was excited then, but I realised that what I got there was basically fry ups which the English called “Full English Breakfast”. I am pretty sure if you go to Cardiff, they will call it “Full Welsh Breakfast”. So, I have decided for a while, so that I wouldn’t offend anyone, I might just call it “The Fryups”.

Since then, and until I went to Edinburgh last week, I never went to Scotland anymore. My knowledge about Scottish food was limited to whisky, and oat — both in oatmeal and oatcake. Ooooh, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE oatcakes. Scottish rough oatcakes, plain — just the best way to enjoy it. And whisky… well, I am not so good at handling my alcohol, so I have to be careful with that pokey stuff.

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No, I haven’t drunk it yet. That drip of 25ml is the serving size
I did try local whisky in Edinburgh. My goodness, it felt like my face and throat melt on the first sip. I have to say though, the aftertaste was wonderful… In case you wanted to try it too, I tried: Highland Park 12 Year from Orkney. I tried it in Bar 50 in Edinburgh.

If you’re into a less pokey alcoholic drink, there’s also a local product called Hollyrood pale ale. Fruity and tasty, but if I have to choose, between both, I will pick the whisky.

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This one has a better serving size…
But the best thing about Scottish food is what I just learned on my last visit to Edinburgh. And it is called: Haggis.

Okay… a lot of people would ask about what Haggis actually is, but then when I explain they would go, “eeew…. you eat that?” Seriously, why the hell not? It is probably one of the best thing I have every tried. When I had my first bite of Haggis, it was the moment I questioned everything in life, and wondered to myself: How could I live without knowing anything about this food?

Well, it was a bit hyperbolic. But I am being serious about how tasty it is.

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No, I am not joking. This is a smaller portion.
I heard about Haggis for so many years from my grumpy darling, but only when I was in Edinburgh I got the chance to finally tasted it. It was not without struggle though. Most of Scottish food was served in a gigantic portion, which I could never be able to finish without hurting myself permanently. My opportunity came when I found a restaurant who served both Haggis, and children size fryup breakfast.

I asked the lady if I could swap the bacon with the haggis. Don’t… I know bacon is tasty, but trust me, there is world outside bacon. And the swap was worth every bite, okay? And with that, I owe a huge apology to Scotland for my ignorance about your food culture. Your Haggis has opened my eyes and satisfied my taste buds.

There you go… Scotland fed me, and it fed me well… I am a happy alien.

The Holyrood…

If you do believe that you have to go to Westminster when you visit London, then for the same reason you should believe that you have to go to Holyrood when you visit Edinburgh. I am not comparing London and Edinburgh, although I did mention that originally I thought Edinburgh is just the Northern version of London.

Of course it is not, for example… as mentioned in the previous post, people in Edinburgh are kinder, and friendlier.

But if you think Westminster is important, it is not fair if you don’t see the same kind importance of Holyrood. Of course, I am talking about the two houses of Parliament. Uhm… is that how you said it? What is the plural form of “House of Parliament“? Is it “Houses of Parliament” or “House of Parliaments“?

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This is the Parliament House looks like if you approach it through Royal Mile
Anyway…

I think I made it too obvious before that I kind of interested in politics a bit. So, I made it my mission — weeks before my visit to Edinburgh, that I had to visit the Scottish Parliament Building. Since on BBC it’s been called Holyrood so many times, I made the assumption that it is located in Holyrood road. I mean… deduction process, hello?

BUT, to be honest, it is easier to find it if you get there through Royal Mile.

BUT, BUT, I think, if you decide to visit the Parliament House, you should still do it through Holyrood road. And this is why…

The Dynamic Earth

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I am not really sure why it is called so, but I think it is one hell of a modern architecture. It is an amphiteathre, and I kind of think it is meant to be used to host big events. When I was there, it was a little bit too early in the morning, so I don’t think it was open for public yet. The bright side: an obsturcted view, perfect for panoramic mode photoshoot.

Dynamic Earth is located in the end of Holyrood Road. It might seem like a dead end, but if you go further, you could see a little passage that would take you closer to the Parliament House, which would be just on your left hand side.

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And this is what you’ve got if you approach through Holyrood Road. Massive difference. You’re welcome…
But this is why I said you should approach the Parliament House through Holyrood Road, because, if you didn’t go straight to the left, you would see a kind of ampitheatric-ish garden where you can sit and nom your snack. Please do enjoy some view there, especially when the sun is shining, and you realise that you are protected by the massive range of mountains around you.

Walk straight ahead.

“But… But the Parliament House is on the left…,” I heard you say. Yes, Dear… a little detour won’t hurt. Afterall, like I said, there are good reasons why you took Holyrood road earlier, didn’t I?

Yes, you are heading to The Palace of Holyroodhouse.

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To be fair, I am taking photos from a locked gate… I can’t make it better even if I tried… Sorry…
Or Holyrood Palace, in short. And if the name hasn’t given up the clue for you yet… It is a palace. Like Buckingham, or Kensington, or Sandringham… but this is in Holyrood, and it is open for public. Not for free, and for some extra you can even get an access to The Queen’s Gallery.

 

Me? I had a mission, remember? So I just took some photos, and get back on track.

I was lucky, though. I didn’t look up the opening times for the Parliamen House. Heck, I didn’t know that it was open for public. Yes for general plebs like you and I. Even for some lost aliens like me. I came a bit early, but apparently I came when it did open early. Like I said, I was lucky.

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From the Parliament House, looking out. There you go… the Queen’s Gallery…
It is pretty understandable that the security process was tight. I am not surprised that it is going to be even tighter after the explosion in Manchester last week. There is a guided tour there if you want, but since I was alone, I thought it would be a bit silly to ask for a guided tour. You can see the exhibition in the hall, but not all sections of the building are open for public — obviously.

I was kind of hoping that I would see, or even take a selfie with MSP Ruth Davidson, but apparently I wasn’t that lucky. Maybe next time…

 

The Good People Of Edinburgh

I did mention earlier that some part of the city did let me down, but I have to say that IF I ever decides to move to this city, it must be because of the people. Yessur… not the tourists I am talking about, but the people of Edinburgh.

At first, I thought Edinburgh is just the northern version of London. I mean, you see the building constructions, the crowd, the traffic, the noise, the late night entertainment… even the parliament. I thought the only differences were the accent and the sense of fashion, but after staying for only few days in Edinburgh, I was proven wrong.

People in Edinburgh were very friendly, and kind to me, and were incrediblty thoughtful.

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Nossur, not the tourists…
When I was in the visa application centre, I had to make another photocopy of my passport because the copy I brought was not the correct standart photocopy they wanted. Fair enough. They have got a photocopy machine in the reception area which everyone can use for 20p per sheet — I suspect it happens a lot when people forgot to make a copy, or something like that. And I walked to the photocopy machine, with my passport on my hand.

Okay, I have operated photocopy machine before, but one photocopy machine is not the same with the other. I don’t know this one, and I don’t like how it looked… these guys were a bit shifty. So I went to the reception and asked the lady there how to get going with these machines.

After knowing that I was only going to make one copy, she decided to make one copy with her own machine. For free. I mean… what?

On the way back home, I took the bus which costs £1.60 for a single trip. Which is totally fine. I had the money, and I was prepared to pay. No biggie.

But I had it in a big banknote, and I guess the bus driver didn’t have change for that. So, instead of sending me off walking back to the city (or make me buy some sweets from poundshop), he asked me how much I had in change. I showed him all the pennies I had in my pouch, and he said…

“That’ll do…”

And off I went.

Wasn’t it wonderful, the kindness and thoughtfulness. They obviously know that I was alone, and that I wasn’t from the neighbourhood. I mean… I did look a bit like a lost puppy sometimes. But really… That would never ever happen to me in London…

BUT… the most memorable character in Edinburgh is definitely the woman who I call “The Singing Punk Spinner of St. Giles Cathedral”. Why I called her that? Why not?

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This is the cathedral, you’d find her there…
Okay… If you ever had the chance to go to Edinburgh, walk the Royal Mile to St. Giles Cathedral. I saw her there twice, and I assume that it was her spot. It is not easy to miss such a character like her there — a skinny lady with punk hair spiking straight up. She wore a tartan corset, and a pair of leather boots. She sat on he wooden stool, spinning on her wooden spinning wheel. Like I said, she’s hard to miss… but just in case you don’t see her, try to listen…

She sang a kind of folk song about spinning wool… sometimes in English and sometimes in Scottish. I wish I could understand what the song was about.

I didn’t take her photo, nor record a video of her, because she refused to be photographed or videotaped. I think it is only proper to respect her wish not to take her photo or video without her consent. If you’re there and you want to take photo or video, make sure you ask her first. Okay? Remember… without consent… it is B A D.