Saturday, May 29, 2010

Returning to My Ancestral Home

In case there was any doubt I am not Irish. I am Scottish, and after this week I am proud to proclaim--it in true Scottish fashion. Something about Edinburgh had an air of effortless cool.
My Scot fest started with Peter Pan at the Barbican and continued with the Edinburgh trip. After a 4 hour train ride we checked into our hostel then went to the writer's museum to study up on the three Scottish greats: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Then came the castle:

I thought this castle was really interesting but I won't pretend that I loved it. I'm glad I saw it, but before too long and after too many bagpipe anthems I was set to move on. We had really good Italian at a place called La Favorita before exhaustedly climbing into our bunks for a semi-restless sleep. The next morning felt much like the day before, and much like every day since January. My feet were tired and callused. I had to consciously make my legs climb down the ladder and into the shower. I thought, well I'll nap later, but this nap never came. I'm not complaining, what is tiredness compared to Europe? An hour by train found us in Stirling to reconnect with our roots:

Once upon a time there was a man named John Macfarlane, who lived in Stirling, Scotland. Before too long he died leaving behind his wife and three children and was buried in Holy Rood churchyard. His wife, her family, and his children converted to the Mormon church and migrated to Utah. His oldest son John, who adopted the middle name Menzies, married three wives. He and his wives moved to Chihuahua, Mexico to avoid persecution and eventually had a mess of children, the very youngest of which was Herbert Adams Macfarlane. Who had a son named John Ralph Macfarlane. Who had a son named Roger Thomas Macfarlane. Who had a daughter named Caroline Elizabeth....who begat... I think I've traced it enough. It was great to be somewhere where I know my family once was, I wonder if someday my great-great-great grandchildren will take a day trip wherever to see my grave? The enormity is hard to grasp.

Apart from root finding, Stirling is an amazing place. Ever heard of William Wallace and a little battle at Stirling Bridge? What about Robert de Bruce and Bannockburn? It's all one and the same. We saw the castle and the room in the castle where James I of England and VI of Scotland was born. We climbed the 246 steps to the top of the National William Wallace (Braveheart) Monument. I felt freer and more proud to be Scottish because of it.

The train ride back was full of agonizing hunger leading to Wannaburger. These were the best burgers in Britain. Large, tasty, and the ever elusive satisfying--they had it all. If they were a boy I would marry them, they were that perfect. It was good that they were filling because Leslie and I headed from dinner to our Ghost Tour. Our tour guide was Faith and she radiating creep-factor. Our tour had the perfect balance of real terror and humor. I'm not sure how I convinced Les to do a ghost walk with me, but we both had a really fun time. The vaults under the city were super creepy and so were the stories, but it was very fun to watch Faith interact with the 15 English rugby players in our group.

The next morning was very similar to the two days prior until I looked out the window. The sky which had been blue splotched with patches of grey the day before had been blanketed by a looming grey cloud. What had once been streaks of sunlight hitting our window were now streams of rain. I remembered that I was in Edinburgh and didn't let it hinder my day as I walked from the hostel to the Scottish National Gallery and then to Scottish Parliament.

I've always felt as though Scotland is rather like a toy government. The English let them have their Stone of Destiny, they have their own currency (which is really like Monopoly money that people accept so it counts as having a value), and they have their own little parliament. This feeling was heightened as I walked through the Scottish Parliament building, especially in the main room debate room of Parliament because it really did feel like a play government. Which is really quite sad to think about--that this nation was once a great threat to England and now it's just like a doll's country.

We left parliament to visit Chocolatesoup a great place where we got drinks and sundaes. Leslie and I bought t-shirts from a stand out front before we headed to the Scottish Museum, there were some seriously cool and seriously old things there. Our train ride home was filled with a three hour tournament of family Pounce which included an offer to sing 'Love at Home' to us.

My Scot fest ended with Macbeth at Shakespeare's Globe. I won't give a review of it here because I'm still not sure how I felt. It was entertaining and it was bloody, including writhing bloody corpses amongst the groundlings. Still, I was able to see through the gallons of red corn syrup and the torrential downpour of Macbeth's saliva on my face to fall in love. With Malcolm. The Prince of Scotland. He was beautiful, rugged, noble, brave, and Scottish. In other words, he was all I want in a man. I was in love from the first word he said in his flawless Glaswegian accent and I knew that it was meant to be. He even looked at me. The fact that he's a little old, I'll never see him again, he is unaware that we're going to be married, and the rest of the students are also in love with him are mole-hills next to the mountain that is our love.

In more serious terms though, I've learned this week:
1. I find Scottish accents ridiculously appealing, as in attractive.
2. It's good to be proud of where you come from AND where you are now.
So I'll end with the Macfarlane clan motto
This I'll Defend

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