Thursday, March 21, 2013

Onward to Scotland

Ruth and friends are in southwest Scotland now (Dumfries Galloway) so we will head through the southeast borders and Edinburgh.
~ ~ ~

A chield’s amang you takin notes,
But faith, she’ll probably lose them in this wind.
                                                                                                         Fooh Burns

10 April: Fooh and I drive over the bridge and out of Askrigg, England, on this drizzly Yorkshire day.  What a beautiful place this is, but we are late for Scotland and I am determined to get to Jedburgh Abbey before the day is done.
   After awhile traveling north, my tiny bear companion, Fooh, ventures to say in his lilting, Salisbury dialect, ‘Angel, I think you missed the turn on the roundabout.’
   ‘Wha?’ I say, having been so proud of my mastery of those hair-raising feats of British engineering.
  ‘Well, we should be on the M1 by now, but we’re heading toward Penrith.’ Fooh has become enamored of the oversized roadmap I have dragged along from the U.S.
  ‘Oh,’ I sigh, ‘that’s just ducky’ and start looking for a place to turn back.
   Hours later, I moan, ‘Oh god, Fooh, I’ve done it again--another roundabout, way up here in the toolies!’ Fooh sings out, ‘Dribe on, dribe on, oh westbound woman, we shall reach the sunset sooner for your wayward ways.’
   Dribe on? I marvel. I have been with this little furry guy for over two weeks and have never noticed he has a vee challenge. Onward north from Yorkshire and through Northumberland, we have gotten lost two more times on A68, somewhere around Hadrian’s Wall. To reward ourselves for all of this trouble, we stop and have England’s worst scone, at an otherwise nice tearoom.

    Finally, we get our first glimpse of Scotland at the Summit, which is also the border. It’s the first time I ask someone to take our photo--by THE ROCK—a Japanese woman, who I know understands photo-taking! Fooh has a thing about photographs so he is barely visible in my right pocket.
   The sky is multi-hues of grey as we drive down the hill through the springtime greening-up landscape. Next to the idyllic Jed Water is Jedburgh Abbey, established in 1138 by David I.
   It’s almost five p.m. and I think we’ll take a quick walk around inside. There are a man and woman who are determined I should buy a Historic Scotland pass and think they are morning talk show hosts. Phew! I am tired and am neither in the mood to study the map to see where I am going to go and how much, if a savings, it might be, nor to put up with the banter they are inflicting on me. They shoo me into the abbey grounds with, ‘Take this map and decide in there.’
  Now Fooh and I decide that studying the map is not the thing to do with our ten minutes so we explore the abbey, which looks marvelous with its beautiful church of what I think is Old Red Sandstone—the nave and its pillars are of solid blocks pressed into lovely shapes and we can see the garden in the cloisters. This is an abbey I had wanted to get to know. It is known that the Lindisfarne See had a church here, but from found artifacts, it was not the first. King David’s priory, and then abbey, was run by Augustinian canons from France. The order was the most involved with the secular world and they formed four communities in the borders area.
  Conflict with the English and then, when they made peace, conflict with the Scots, ensured that the abbeys would be sacked numerous times and rebuilt almost as many. By the Reformation in the mid-1500s, about eight canons were left in the remains of Jedburgh. They were allowed to stay, but it became a protestant church.
   We leave Dolly and Dongo with the map in their hands and congratulate ourselves for resisting the sales pitch and fulfilling our quest. ~
   As we drive through the village of Jedburgh looking for a B&B, it becomes evident that half the town buildings were recycled from the abbey. The colors of the stone are striking. There are noted outcroppings of the Old Red Sandstone throughout East Lothian and other places in Scotland and this area was where Hutton’s Unconformity theory came to be: another of my geological quick studies but I won’t make a fool of myself trying to explain it here. Catch me at a cocktail party—or maybe you should avoid me.
   But okay...just a nibble and you have to fish, ‘cause I ain’t no scientist. There was debate in the eighteenth century between Neptunism and Plutonism, regarding basalt rocks being formed by the ocean and water, or in the case of the latter, by molten magma from volcanoes. Plutonism won out, and Hutton discovered strata in the earth in Scotland that were non-uniform. In studying these, he saw the difference in layers of what had been sediment under water over four-hundred million years ago, before being pushed upward by volcanic movement. These layers of former oceanic sediment were overlaid with later strata and in places, had been pushed vertically from their original horizontal position. This is what he called ‘unconformity’ of the layers. Perhaps the cocktail wasn’t such a bad idea.
   There is no lodging available here and Fooh says, ‘Maybe we should hab taken the ‘big week-end’ a bit more seriously.’ We drive east to Kelso, trying to get off the beat of the rush for beds and knock on B&B doors—to no avail—with Easter week-end and a big bicycle race all over the area.
  The host who owns the lovely Priory Bed and Breakfast lets me in and calls everyone he knows. Against my whispered prayers to be allowed to stay in town, no rooms are available but I find out that Sir Walter Scott’s great-grandfather was born in the building next door. When I walk back to the car, I realize the 1796 house is neighbors with the 1128 Kelso Abbey. It is a charming numberly neighborhood.
  King David I had spent time in France and saw how the Norman feudal system worked. He realized the Roman Catholics were a useful instrument of popular control, so he built this abbey and more, as we will find out. The Kelso Abbey has the finest Romanesque church in Scotland, covered in carved geometric patterns which were once covered with color, but now with ivy.
  We pass Floors (Fleurs originally) Castle on the drive out of town. The land belonged to the abbey until the Reformation then was purchased by Robert Innes-Ker and a stone tower was built. A Georgian country house was built onto the tower in 1721; then in the nineteenth century, it was embellished with turrets and battlements, for show. I understand the ‘castle’ is a must-see, with magnificent apartments built in the 1930s, French furniture and tapestries and modern paintings.
  Fooh spots a small sign for a B&B and I find it down a tiny road, with a big gate I have to figure out. Amid a sea of rambunctious dogs, Liz answers the door—she is not prepared for the season, but feels bad and doesn’t want to turn me away, so lets me in. She has four Whippets and two pups and two little terrier types.
   I go out to invite Fooh in. ‘I shudder to think of sharing space with one of those canine creatures, let alone eight,’ he says quietly, and huddles even deeper into his drink tray, until only his chewed-off ear is visible. I regret having resurrected such tragic memories for this little bear-buddy and go to my room to get a tasty biscuit and sweet hot tea for his dinner.
11 April:   Fooh and I take a side trip through Melrose to glimpse the abbey which is not open, but we can say we saw it. They are just getting ready for the bike race, putting out cones, but we luck out—the road is still open.
   Melrose is just south of the River Tweed and was built in 1136 by King David I, close to the first 650 Melrose Church run by monks from Iona. Burned under Richard II in 1385, the abbey was reconstructed and sort-of completed again by 1504. After Henry VIII’s rough wooing of baby Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1544, Melrose never recovered from the wreckage. Still, what a beautiful complex of ruins and location to appreciate on a day out. Our first man in a kilt, who is tending to his bicycle, assures us ‘Robert the Bruce’s heart was rescued on the moors in Spain and was buried here at Melrose’.
   Fooh whispers under his breath, “I am not sure what to think of this madness.”
  At the Park and Ride, the building is closed and there is no change, but when I spread my hands out in ‘gee, what am I going to do?’ fashion, a man’s hand reaches around my shoulder and plops some coins into my paw. Golly ~ On to Edinburgh this Easter Saturday...oh dear...
~ ~ ~
‘Auld Reekie’!
and they weren’t kidding.

  We pass blocks and blocks of dark grey townhouses and the driver lets us off by the Royal Mile, the road that goes from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. I keep forgetting to mention the quite a few times that people haven’t understood me. Usually it is a young person who hasn’t been away from their home town—or an older person who hasn’t. It always makes me laugh—that they can’t understand me. Fooh must be bi-lingual; he has no problem.
  Edinburgh is a big, noisy, heavy-feeling city—my first impression, mind you, so wait for our second visit when I fall in love—dark, substantial architecture; too crowded; and a lot of construction going on, with high cranes all over. It’s Easter Saturday and kids are out of school—strange they would all want to come here.
  High Street is almost unbearable--so full of history, so many humans. Probably what it was like in the 1500s. I can see and smell the slop from the night jars. Can imagine and in my effluent submersion, I almost whack the guy next to me—keep yer slops to yerself...oh, uh, excuse me, I was just thinking...uh... never mind.
  I can hardly snap photos with people in front of me or pushing from the rear, so I walk through the close gates to sight-see behind, in the courtyards of the tightly-packed high-rise tenements. While the rich on the upper floors were isolated from the squalor, the poorer residents lived on the bottom, where the filth and stench were as bad as any city on earth. Many courtyards are now are restaurants and barristers’ offices. But we can see what it was.

Remaining David's Tower and Half-Moon Battery on left.

  We stand in line at the castle for about fifteen minutes, and Fooh is getting nervous with such a crowd. Groups of teens are standing around looking bored and hot. It makes me think about our school travel group of teens getting ready to come to the UK. Whatever makes teachers think this is going to be a rich experience for the kids, who just want to eat and find new friends? Now I think, ‘All of these hundreds of people are going to be inside with us.’ No rat has scurried faster through the exit gate.
   I amble down the other side of the street, getting too warm and carrying my jacket. We stop in John Knox’s house and buy a children’s book on Edinburgh, which has a neat map of the streets which is very helpful. The lady helps me figure out where Charlotte Square is.
What a blessing--a real piper!
  The High Street has much to see, but every shop dances to the same touristy tune: cheap tartan blankets, scarves and woolen toys for kids, and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards pipe and drum Hector the Hero out of every shop.
  Princes Street is quieter, and below the castle is a park. There is an Easter play being performed to a small crowd. The story here in Edinburgh is people have been on this hill of lava and granite ‘forever’. It was an active volcano and when it erupted, the hill was covered with sand and mud. Then the Ice Age glacier eroded it and when the ice melted, the depression created around the huge rock was left very marshy and sometimes filled with water. I guess that’s simple enough.
   Later, the government drained what they called the Nor Loch (north loch) and turned it into a park. Looking up, we appreciate how the castle is situated; it looks like it grew from the rock. It is formidable and until cannons came along, would have been difficult to attack—sieges would have had to suffice.
   When James VI renounced Edinburgh for London when he inherited the crown from Elizabeth I in 1603, it was only time until the Act of the Union in 1707 tempted others to migrate south. Town fathers decided to build a ‘new town’, and the design plan of a young man named James Craig was used to lure desirable residents back to the city.
National Trust Georgian House is uniform with all the other
Georgian houses in Charlotte Square, New Town.
  The earth dug from Charlotte Square and other developments in the 1700s was used to create the road called The Mound, which leads around to the castle from the New Town. We see a painting of it here at the National Trust for Scotland office, in Charlotte Square, where I am having lunch. It shows a horse and buggy traveling up to the High Street and looks peaceful and idyllic then.
Looking across the park to Lamont House.
   We walk around the pretty central park area to the Georgian House. They have a story of the Lamont family on a video. He was head of a clan and they decided to live in Edinburgh rather than the country. They said it was more fashionable, but I wonder about the politics during that time. I think the clans were having difficulty getting around the English after the final Jacobite uprising, and it was much easier for the Scots to be accepted if they emulated them.
   Lamont still had his club on the filthy High Street, the place to be for business, but the slops and filth were still thrown on street. Charlotte Square was the best new address, but the slops also made it into the street here and the smell was still bad; therefore, the drawing room was built on the first floor upstairs. The dining room was downstairs, because the smell of the food camouflaged the smell of the street. Here too, the little cupboard was still present, where the men urinated (behind a screen) while they ate and drank. Fooh remarks, ‘At least there was a screen here.’
  The Lamonts’ story was like Jane Austen’s Persuasion, where Mr. Elliot had to retrench, because of his bills. So he leased the country estate to someone. The Trust has restored the house and furnished it with Georgian treasures, and they have taken pains to do it right. It is luv-ly, as we say here, and done very to the period.
  We mosey up Rose Street, which is really a small, quaint alley, with pubs and a few shops and ancient buildings. This is Edinburgh, right down to the cobbled walk and little old Christian designs in the pebbles.
   I take photos of the crowds on George Street while we wait for the bus. The only time I’ve ever seen so much foot traffic has been in films of downtown New York City—you know the ones, where a thief grabs a lady’s handbag and someone tries to chase him but can’t get through the people—or cops chasing the same guy and he always gets away, yes indeed ~ 

Excerpted from Crazy American Lady's Tour of Historical Scotland.
(Tune in next time for an Edinburgh-lover's tour!) 

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