Sunday, 27 April 2008

Bagpipes, Porridge, Sheep: the adventure begins

She arrived on a Monday afternoon, wearing the dazed, haggard look of someone who had just taken three planes and flown 5,000 miles.

Lovely Nif was on her own much of the time, as I was working and only had the evenings to spend. Her collections of photos prove that she spent her hours wandering aimlessly and often getting lost, something which she enjoys intensely.

Our first joint outing was to the Storytelling Centre for an evening of stories from Norway and northern Scotland. The woman from Norway was particularly entertaining, as she would ease into a tale with sound effects, ringing a small bell or plucking solemn cords on a mouth bow.

Throughout Nif's stay I managed to be very lucky with a windfall of free tickets to local shows. The first of these was to see the Red Hot Chili Pipers. The Liquid Room is truly the foulest venue I have ever visited, and while I admit that my concert-going life has not exactly been the most varied, this was still the first time I had nearly lost a shoe trying to walk over a sticky floor. A bizarre sense of camaraderie erupts as people gingerly manoeuvre past each other, creating a sickly chorus of stick and peel soles.

The show opened with Irish singer/songwriter Paul Casey. He is a wonderful singer with a warm voice, and I felt bad that the din of conversation continued over his playing. I wonder what it is like to perform before a group of people who are not listening.

The Chili Pipers were fabulous. While it isn’t the kind of music I could listen to on my stereo, when it's live - oh, yes, I certainly do want to hear the intro to Thunderstruck played on a trio of bagpipes. Beside us there was a little old couple who had received tickets as a gift. They looked so confused and out of place in the dingy environment, where theatrical smoke was being pumped into the closed atmosphere to further cloud the view of how very dirty it was. The only time this couple looked to come alive with joy was when the band slowed things down with Highland Cathedral and a couple of other traditional tunes. By the end of the show I didn’t care about anything - the mood was wonderful and almost everyone was moving and wanting more. The showdown between the drummers was particularly glorious.

Friday night we were out again, this time to see Madama Butterfly at the Playhouse. I had already seen it, but Nif had never been to the opera and once again the tickets were free, so off we went.

After months without television, I was now pleased to discover how much more patient I was. The scene that had annoyed me the most the first time I saw it - when she stands from dusk until dawn, waiting for her long-lost husband to return - became my favourite this time around. Near the end however I did have to suppress the urge to yell at her to shut up and stab herself already. Nif herself reported to have enjoyed the second half much more. When the lights had gone up during the intermission, her expression told me she was going to kill someone while simultaneously slipping into a coma.

On Saturday I dragged Nif to the farmer’s market, where she discovered a whole new world of porridge. She had the cranachan with raspberries and cream while I loaded up on toasted hazelnut and white chocolate bars.
We took the train to Linlithgow and I was surprised to be feeling so tense about visiting. It didn’t help that the train was full, which always makes me touchy. After a while I mellowed out, as we wandered through the church and the palace before having a pub lunch. I even managed to shock and slightly offend the Canadian preacher who oversees the parish at St. Michael's. When he mentioned that they were thinking of installing some small windmills on the side of the church to help with their energy bills, I smiled broadly and remarked “Ah! Frappe a la pigeon!” Apparently, the thought had not crossed his mind previously, and he immediately walked away.

The best part of the day was a stroll near some farms to see the lambs and take in the green signs of spring. It rained a few times but we didn’t mind and just took our time.
On the way back we stopped by a local house where the owner had decided to turn their front garden into a Mecca of tackiness. I shall let the photo speak for itself.
Next time, we take on Glasgow.


your new best friend said...

fantastico! happy belated birthday :)

your new best friend said...

i wish i was there eating weird porridges.