Opinionated

Opinions and the occasional insight from just another reporter in Washington.

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Saturday, December 08, 2001
 
Observations from Scotland


The following was written during my honeymoon, from an Internet cafe on Edinburrrrr.


Monday, in our exploration of Castle Edinburgh, was trying to squeeze a lemonade out of a lemon of the day. The city was continually engulfed by a miserable, gray, wet gloom and since 90% of the city is centuries-old Georgian and gothic structures, black with soot/dirt/age/haggis etc., it was like being in the middle of a Tim Burton movie.

We've been to two castles in the city, Castle Edinburgh, which rests atop an extinct volcano in the heart of the city, and Hollyrood Palace, which is a mile down from the volcano on the East end of the city. Both of them are way more... grand or elaborate than anything in Ireland. Hollyrood is used by Queen Elizabeth for two weeks every summer. Apparently she takes a vacation from her tough life of... being Queen. My heart bleeds. Thank goodness we kicked these people's asses in the Revolutionary War.

I'll give you a quick summary of Scottish history. First they were Vikinglike primitive people. Then the British took over. Then Mel Gibson came along and kicked the hell out of them. Then Robert the Bruce, Mel's buddy in Braveheart, liberated Scotland for about four hundred years, then the British came in and beat the hell out of everyone including Mary, Queen of Scots, who was lovely and kind and gentle and thus had terrible things done to her because the British Isles are a dog eat dog world. Then there was the act of union, which made the United Kingdom, then Tony Blair decided to give Scotland its own Parliament. They're building a new Parliament here in Edinbrrghar, and the current offices look something like a mid-level accounting firm.

In every room of these castles, we have recieved histories that go something like this:

"In 1598, Sir MacAngus Big Mac MacMacClarty genuflected to the Queen, Brunhilda, Her Lady of Severe Peayemess, on the wrong knee. In a fit of rage that comes from generations of inbreeded, Brunhilda had MacClarty's eyes gouged out over there, where the optometrist's office is, his bowels disemboweled over there, where the butcher's store is, his ears cut off where the Tower Records is over there, and his tongue cut off, right where that Haggis stand is today. MacAngus was outraged by having his body parts strewn about Edingbororgh, so his brother Old MacDonald of the Farm EeIiEeIiO, retributed by burning down all the orphanages and nunneries and having Brunhilda captured, run through the streets naked, her heart and liver cut out, chopped into small pieces, boiled for two hours, sewed into a cow's stomach, boiled for another four hours and served to the peasants with a side of mashed turnips. This outraged Spuddy, the Earl of Turnips, who declared war in June of 1598..."

And so on.

I climbed my second mountain of the honeymoon - third if you consider managing to not strangle Allison a mountainous task. The Salisbury Crags are a giant, wind-swept grass-covered rock outcropping towering above the southeast corner of the city, about 800 and change feet tall. We made our way up a semi-marked trail to a truly stunning view, amidst the top of the mountain surrounded by winds that I would estimate to be about 800 miles per hour, or, translated into metric, a kajillion trillion billion google point five kilometers per hour. We took lots of pictures, hopefully they will come out okay as we braved some truly stunning winds. (Editor’s note: Alas, they did not.)


Somehow, we have managed to not start a fight while we're here, even though the Scottish national motto is, "Nae Man Provokes Me With Impunity!" I thought the official Scottish motto was, "Ahm sorry Cap'in, I'm givin' it all she's got!"



 
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Observations From Ireland


The following was written during my honeymoon, from an Internet cafe on Edinburrrrr (as it is phonetically pronounced) on Sunday night, when the entire continent of Europe is closed.


The past few days have been eventful, but mostly fun. Allison and I left the friendly (psychotically friendly, in fact) confines of Dublin to veture out to the West. I will try to briefly summarize the rest of Ireland for you:


Central Ireland: Very pretty, many shades of green, there are probably even more in summer and spring. The sheep to people ratio looks to be about ten to one. There are also many cows, and more than a few horses. Every field is marked by a rustic looking stone wall fence, and every once in a while there is a "head" - what in America we call "hills and mountains that are very hard to climb" and "loughs" - small lakes that are darker than Satan's pleghm.

Galway: The largest city in Western Ireland. Dublin felt like either a dollhouse or an extremely large scale model of a real city (I bumped my head on a few doorways), so Galway is about 80 percent of that. Again, many fine pubs, and I did my part to boost the stock of Guiness. The local police are very nice and very understanding, and that's all I have to say about that.

Cliffden: The tiny romantic village we stayed in two nights ago. It pretty much closes in October. What little bit of the town is still open is their sweater-based economy. Had one of my better meals here, some local salmon, making this the most fish-oriented week I've had in a while.

Sligo: After returning the rent a car, Allison and I took a bus up to the town nearest what is believed to be the region of my Geraghty and Flanagan ancestors. Unfortunately, we arrived about an hour and forty five minutes before the last train to Dublin. So we ran around the town, seeing as much as we could, including the Abbey (more stone ruins) and some cute shops. Glad we got to see it, wish we could have seen more.

Last night spent a last night in Dublin, and grabbed a late dinner that featured the best shrimp (or prawns, as they insist upon calling them here) I've had this side of Hilton Head Island. On Saturday night, the city lights up. Not quite New Orleans level raucousness, more like M Street in Georgetown or King Street in Alexandria.

Ladies, if you're wondering where all the great men besides me are, I can tell you they play for the New Zealand Rugby Team. They were on our flight from Dublin to Edinburrrr today (after kicking the Irish team's ass all over the pitch - er, I mean, field), and Allison went ga-ga over them. For my part, I have to say they're some of the meanest looking dudes I've ever seen - mountain-sized shoulders, biceps the size of my thighs, custom tailored all black suits (the team nickname is the All Blacks - don't ask me why).

As for Edinburrrraghghgh, it has been majestic but a little disappointing. It gets dark here around 4 (this might be the furthest north I've ever traveled) and there has been a farly steady rain most of the day. I'm sure the endless array of castles, churches, and government buildings around me look much better in the sunshine, but for now they cast a gothic gloom around all the streets.

Hey, guess what, I had haggis. Before I knew what it was. It tastes like spicy hamburger meat - only later did I find it's lambs liver and heart, chopped up and boiled, then put into a lamb or cow's stomach, then boiled again for another four hours or so with some onions and spices. Yeek. I want to go to the Scottish dining mainstay, Mac-Donalds to get a Big Mac, but Allison won't let me.

I'll write more on this later, but from what I've read and learned, Scotland has a horrifyingly bloody history. Ireland might have a miserable history (And borderline shameful: I found out a few days ago that when Hitler died, the Irish prime minister sent condolences to Germany!) but Scotland's was full of beheadings, torture, dungeons, hot irons, etc.

Fun Fact: I can understand the Irish accent, but Scottish sounds like gibberish to me. "Te bren me baer bitty ben bro bar bre ach wee so fairn birn macmoymacscottybeammeup" is something like "hello" here. For Allison, it's the exact opposite: The babbling Irish brogue was incomprehensible, but the Scottish tongue is straight out of her God-awful Highlander movies or romance novels.

As for me, I'm doing okay, but wish I could pirate a signal from Fox News. Every once in a while, I'll read some typical leftist garbage in the Irish/British newspapers and it's make me irate (one said that the U.S. was being "petulant" and "insolent" in its handling of terrorism - what the f*** do they want, us to be "cheerful and gregarious"? This coming from a country (Ireland) utterly incapable of defending itself, and not exactly having the best record when it comes to weeding out terrorists on its soil.) Argh. See? It's starting already, I'm ranting.



 
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Life is good.


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Why can I not find this page?

 
Why is this not publishing?

 
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Well, here we go. Opinionated - testing, one, two, three.