Week 17 – A fun weekend entertaining guests

The week after the storm!!  Even though this has been a stormy week weather wise.

It was a bit of an uneventful week which was welcome as we are still recovering from moves week.  My desk isn’t all the way cleaned off yet but it’s getting close.  We were able to go Monday night and visit again with Nikky and she is continuing to read the Book of Mormon.  She eagerly waits for us to come so she can go over what she has read.  I said last time that she reads and writes down questions and feelings and what exactly she is reading in her own words.  She believes everything she reads in the Book of Mormon and is so intriqued with it.  She loves the words, the language and feels familiar with it.  She has gone without caffeine now for over a week and sleeps better because of it.  She feels calm and happier.  I also sat with her today at church and told her a little bit about President Monson and how he loves poetry and usually tells us a poem when he speaks.  Nikky writes poetry as well and is really good.  I thought she would like to know that about President Monson.  Of course the first thing she aske me was what poems does he recite and who is his favorite poet.  I should have saw that coming.  I couldn’t even think of a poem.  So if any of you know of a few good poems that he tells us – chime in.

Sunday after church I just had to do something.  I felt like I needed to just get out and breathe some fresh air so we decided to go for a

Pratt’s Hill or Arthur’s Seat

drive.  Sister Gifford really hasn’t been into the city much – me either for that matter but we decided today might be a good day to just drive in and find a place to park and then we could just walk a bit and enjoy the city and smile at all the people and maybe even talk to one or two.  Well, what I didn’t realize is Festival was beginning in the city which is the prelude to Tatoo.  The streets were so packed with cars, buses, people and many streets were blocked off and there were policeman directing cars down certain roads.  We couldn’t find a place to park to save our lives.  And even if we did, I am not sure we would ever have figured out how to find the car again.  This wasn’t the environment we had anticipated for a nice Sunday stroll.

So after driving up and down jam packed streets and making a promise to myself that I would never try that again – we headed out of the city towards the hills.  We drove over to Holyrood Park.  This is where we find Arthur’s Seat, the highest peak in Edinburgh, which was formed by a volcano.  Arthur’s Seat is better known to the missionaries as Pratt’s Hill which I believe I’ve talked about before.  But quickly to refresh your mind, Elder Orson Pratt came to Scotland in 1840 to preach the gospel as an LDS Apostle.  He climbed up Arthur’s Seat and there he dedicated the country of Scotland for the preaching of the gospel.  Our missionaries do the same on their first day in Scotland and again their last day and they set goals for themselves while they are there and think about what they will accomplish in Scotland.  Then on their last day they reflect about those goals they made.  It was a beautiful day on Sunday so we just drove and drove.  It was nice.

Here is some thistle that I saw as well.  Thistle is the national flower of Scotland.  There are a few reasons why this wild weed came to be the national flower for

Scotland.  I’m not sure if they are true but they are fun.

  1.  Legend says that a sleeping band of Scottish warriors were saved from ambush of Nordic warriors when one of the Norse stepped on a thistle and cried out in pain.  It woke the Scots up and they were able to defeat the Norse group.
  2. 2. There are many varieties of thistle found in Scotland.
  3. 3. There is a famous ode or poem called A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle.  I would print the whole thing out for you but I’ll spare you the misery and just write the first verse here.

A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle

I amma fou sae muckle as tired deid dune

It’s gey and hard wark coupin gless for gless

Wi Cruvie and Gilsanquar and the like,

And I’m no juist as bauld as aince I wes.

That’s the first of 12 verses.  And no, I don’t speak Scottish enough to tell you what it is about.

4.  The thistle represents one of the highest honors the country can give an individual.  The Most Noble Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry which is bestowed to those who have made an outstanding contribution to the life of Scotland and the greater United Kingdom.  Only the Queen invests those into the Order of the Thistle.

5.  Thistles are found everywhere in the countryside.  The rugby teams have it on their jersey, local businesses and organizations use it as an emblem, the police officers wear it on their uniforms.

Wednesday I took Elder Arenas to the doctor again with his hand and enjoyed an afternoon with him and Elder Price.  We did the run-thru McDonald’s afterwards (literally the only drive thru I know of) and sent them back on their way home.  It’s fun to watch the interaction between these two missionaries.  Elder Price has taken it upon himself to care for his companion and to protect him.  He makes sure appointments are set and that insurance is correct and takes all the planning upon himself so Elder Arenas just has to concentrate on his hand.  It’s sweet.  His mother would be so proud to see what I see at these appointments.  These young men really step up when needed.  They all do.

Friday Sister Gifford’s granddaughter Julie and her husband Brad came to visit.  They are on a trip for their anniversary and they were spending the weekend in Scotland. Sister Gifford planned on spending Friday and Saturday with them and I was thinking how great it was going to be to have a few days to myself.  (Sometimes it is hard to always be with someone when you haven’t really done that for years.)  Friday when they got to the office by way of taxi from the airport, I drove them and Sister Gifford to the B&B that they were staying at.  Before they got out of the car I asked what they had planned and did they need me to pick them up and take them anywhere.  I wanted to offer my services as a driver as much as they needed.  I really had no problems with that but I also didn’t want to get in the way.  Well, they really had no plans whatsoever.  They knew they wanted to see the Edinburgh Castle and they wanted to hike Arthur’s Seat.  I couldn’t help myself.  I had to offer some suggestions.

I waited for them to get settled in their room and then I drove them to the Royal Mile.  Remember Festival is in full swing now and I had promised myself just a few days before that I wasn’t going to drive over there again…  Well, we got to the Royal Mile and I’m driving down this completely packed, cobble-stone street (the Royal Mile) and I’m thinking to myself – why don’t I see any other cars on this street??  Well, within a few more feet I realized the road was blocked off and cars weren’t supposed to be on it.  I saw no signs telling me not to turn on the road, no one gave me a weird look or honked or yelled at me, it didn’t seem to bother anyone that I was driving down this street.  So I dropped them off in front of Mary King’s Close, which is a tour of the underground places that people lived in back in the 17th century, and then maneuvered a u-turn in the middle of a throng of tourists and skeedaddled on out of there.  I went back to the office and finished out my day.  Then I took myself shopping to Primark where I bought a new duvet cover and pillow cases all for 10 pounds and then went to Five Guys and sat and enjoyed the solitude.  I also enjoyed the Salted Caramel Shake.  About 9:00 I called Sister Gifford to see how they were doing and they were just wrapping up their trek of the Royal Mile and was getting a taxi to take them back to the B&B so I drove over and picked her up from there.

Just so you know, the Royal Mile is the mile-long cobblestoned street that runs from the Edinburgh Castle to the Queens Palace (Holyrood House).  This time of year it is packed with tourists and entertainers.  I guess I need to take a night or two after work and go visit it myself.  I’m taking the bus!!

Saturday I had planned on hopping on a bus and just taking it as far is it went and then walking back so I could see some things I haven’t seen before and take some fun pictures but Sister Gifford didn’t know what to do with her grand daughter.  They wanted to eat at The Dome that night but that was their only plan besides hiking Arthur’s Seat and it was going to be a really rainy day so I asked if they would rather go and see some sights.  They thought that sounded good so we picked them up at 9:00AM Saturday morning and we headed out.

First stop – Linlithgow Palace.  This palace sits on Loch Linlithgow and is really a pretty place.  It was a great place for weary travelers to stay when going between Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle.  Mary Queen of Scots was born here.   We didn’t go in the Palace but we walked around the grounds and was lucky enough to watch a man making a kilt out of a piece of tartan cloth.  He laid it on the ground and then pleated it the whole length.  Then he slid a belt under it in the middle and then another man laid down in it and they brought the belt around him and fastened it.  Then he stood up and adjusted it a bit and he had a perfect kilt.  That is how they did it back in the olden days.  It was pouring rain so we felt pretty lucky to have seen that.  Both men ran for cover as soon as they were done.  I think the tartan they are wearing is the “Outlander” tartan.  This castle must be used in Outlander because there was a lot of signs about Outlander.  Sister Gifford and I will go back here and explore more another day.

Second stop:  Stirling Castle.  I’ve been dying to go back to Stirling.  I still think it is my favorite place.  I’ve seen a lot of great castles and I like each one for different reasons but overall I still like Stirling.  I like the whole area, not just the castle.  Last time I was there I was wanting so badly to explore the cemetery below the castle which connects to The Church of the Holy Rude so I took that opportunity to leave Sister Gifford with her family to tour Stirling Castle and I wandered down to the cemetery. After wandering around in the pouring rain for about an hour I went into The Church of the Holy Rude.  This church began in the early 15th Century and still has its original oak roof beams.  The people of the area believe that King James IV may have helped masons build the eastern end of the church during the 16th century.  In 1567 the infant King James VI was crowned.  There are bullet marks on the tower that may date from a siege of Stirling castle just above the church by Cromwell’s troops in 1651.

I loved this window. Had a hard time getting a good picture. Can you see the Scottish soldier at the bottom with his rifle? (His head is hard to see).

After visiting the church I hiked back up to the castle and decided to explore some of the castle as well.  I’m glad we bought the Historical Scotland passes a while back because we get into all these places as much as we want at no charge.  The passes are good for a year and we only paid 35 pounds each.  I’m sure we are going to get our money’s worth out of these passes.

I went into the Great Kitchen which was a really fun place to check out.  It taught me that mostly men and boys worked in the kitchens.  They had a great display in this area.  I also visited the tapestry making displays which were really interesting.  I wandered around some more and found three bagpipe players and a group of people getting ready to dance.  I watched the bagpipe players tune their instruments and got a bit   discouraged

about possibly getting some bagpipes.


After getting some lunch at the same place as last time we came to Stirling (not my favorite place) we got back on the road and headed to a small village named Culross.

Culross (Coo – ross) is in the Kingdom of Fife and is charming. We went into the Town House which in the 1600’s was used as a prison and a place of local government.  It is also said that witches were kept prisoner in the attic. We met a very nice man here in the Town House and he was so gracious to walk outside with us and show us where to go to see everything we wanted to see.  He sent us hiking up a long set of steep steps so we could look down on the gardens and the castle. Then over a few streets to see the unicorn statue.  This was such a neat town and I hope to go back when the weather is better so I can really take some good pictures.

On the way back to Edinburgh we had to find the Kelpies.  We have driven by them a few times but have never figured out how to get to them.  Today was the day.  They are so neat looking and there is literally no warning that you are coming up on them and then they are gone just as quick with no place to pull over with them in view.

They are so neat looking, the picture really doesn’t do them justice but I was really happy to finally get up close to them.  They sit right on the waters edge of the Forth and Clyde Canal and they represent a few different things.  Kelpies are mythological beasts that have the endurance and strength of a hundred horses.  They also represent the work of horses in the area as they pulled wagons and ploughs, barges and coal ships.  They are actually based on two Clydesdales named Baron and Duke.

Well, as you can imagine after our very full day we were exhausted and didn’t really want to go back into the city to eat at The Dome.  Yea!!  I was not really looking forward to that anyway.  So we hit our favorite Indian Restaurant in our neighborhood, Jashans, and had Butter Chicken and Garlic Naan Bread.  It hit the spot since we were feeling a bit chilled after being out in the rain the entire day.  It sure didn’t take me long to fall asleep once we got back home.

Today, Sunday after church we ended up over at the mission office with a few things to get done.  I printed off boarding passes for the AP’s and the STL’s who are heading to Dublin tomorrow for All-Ireland Zone Conference and Sister Gifford worked on the newsletter.  Then we grabbed her granddaughter again and we ate lunch at our flat then went for a drive.

We drove all the way around Arthur’s Seat and then over to Craigmiller Castle.  Since it was Sunday we didn’t pay to go in but we did walk along the edge of the Castle and took a picture.  We will go back there another day.  It is really close to our house and we never realized it was such a big castle.  The field we walked through had a well-worn path but all along the path were these big black slugs.  It was a bit creepy.  I decided this would be a perfect place to have a Halloween Theme Park.  I also made friends with a cute little cat that decided he liked us and followed us the whole way to and from the castle.

Well, we had a very fun and exciting weekend.  I better get some sleep now because we are off on another car delivery on Thursday.  We are going to Stornoway which is on the Isle of Lewis.  We will take a ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway and then back again on Sunday.  We won’t home until at least 10:00PM on Sunday so I won’t get my blog done until Monday evening probably so until then…

I love you.

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