Visiting the U.K. – Part 14
Dundee was a pretty interesting place. I can’t speak for how the locals feel. It’s been my experience that if you live in a place, you tend to be less impressed by it and more bored with what it has (or doesn’t have) to offer.
But I mean…I can’t very well go for a walk in OKC and see a ship like the one pictured here. Best thing I’ll find is a wildly painted buffalo statue or a bronze replica of some famous baseball player at the ballpark.
Not only did Dundee have a ship, it had those penguin statues everywhere, and I remember seeing a dragon statue, and there’s even a statue of a famous comic book character.
These are probably some of those things that become regular fixtures to the locals and so they don’t even notice them now. Maybe.
I think our tale continues on March 18th, but I have no way of being sure. I stopped writing dates in my journal because I failed at consistency. It was remarkable that I even found time to make entries.
On Sunday, I spent a lot of time sleeping. [I think Kyle had a class or something he had to do at the school..or maybe work? So I just stayed in the flat and slept til 1 or 2 or so.] Later that day, I met Kyle’s girlfriend who, it turns out, is a really nice girl. I think she’s a pretty good match for him. She came across as very independent and seems to have a no-nonsense kind of attitude, meaning that it looks like she takes zero crap from my brother (or anyone else, probably.)
We ate together at a Chinese buffet place, where I dared my brother to eat his ice cream with his chopsticks. For some reason I thought it would be a rather humorous fail. But as it turns out…
We then stopped off at the sports bar for a few rounds of pool before heading back for the evening. (I don’t really remember what else we did that night, if anything else.)
What I do remember is the rugby! The sports bar had a rugby game playing and I’ve never seen real rugby before. You know, you see a half-second of a rugby match in the movies: you’ve got some posh bloke who turns out to be a total douche and they think that showing him playing in his ivy league rugby game will get that image across to the viewer. He’s rich but he’s a jerk. Blah blah…
Anyway, I was pretty fascinated with the rugby game. More so when I realized that the trolls on the field were women! Seriously, it looked like they’d let loose a team of inmates. These women were the burly-est, bulky-est, ugly-est – ESTS that you could find! I mean, there are a lot of -ests that fit these women. I’ve never seen such a violent game either. Sure, you’ve got American Football where the guys are tackling each other, but these women made that look tame. And let’s not forget: they weren’t wearing protective pads either.
Do not piss these women off!
But really, we had a nice time at the sports bar. We had a few friendly games of pool – which consisted mostly of Kyle winning – a few drinks. I discovered that Scotland had the most bizarre thing ever in the women’s restroom, though. Apparently, there are hair straighteners in these restrooms, just bolted to the wall for anyone to use between drinks, I guess. How BIZARRE is that?
Anyway, another odd thing was I remember seeing a small vehicle outside on the street below. It turned out to be some sort of meal van? I thought maybe it was something run by a local soup kitchen or something to that effect. But there were just random people, students and what not, walking up and getting free food. I saw NO MONEY exchanged. Really… and these didn’t look like the type of people to be needing food assistance. Someone has got to tell me what this thing was? Surely, people don’t just wander around Dundee giving free food to hungry students at night?
Who knows? That’s about all I can recall for that evening. (Though I’ll be honest, the bit about the hair straightener might not’ve been discovered until our second trip to the Sports Bar. But who cares? Huh? It’s BIZARRE!) Let’s just move on…
On Monday morning, we woke up and the three of us hopped the train back to Edinburgh to meet up with my brother’s girlfriend’s twin sister and their aunt, who had gotten us tickets to see “Blood Brothers” at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Surprisingly, it was a musical. I had never heard of it and so wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Okay, so I admit it. After looking at this photo and seeing the dates that the show was playing…I’ve realized my journal dates are so messed up. I flew home on the 20th or so, and so there’s no way I was in Edinburgh on the 17th with Charlie. Because we did that before Kyle’s friend ever came to Scotland, and she was there with us for like a week. In fact, she flew in on Tuesday, the day after we saw this play.
So forget the dates. Who knows when any of this happened. For all I know, we had tickets to the show for Monday the 14th. I don’t even know…my chronology is so off.
Before the play we met at a Spanish restaurant and had dinner. The style was a bit different than I’m used to. Basically, you order dozens of tiny dishes and once the table is full, you all just kind of pick bits and pieces out of all the tiny dishes. Everyone shares and you get to try a little of everything. It’s a great idea, really. Especially for a picky eater like me.
His girlfriend’s family was really nice, as well.
As awkward and unusual as I tend to be and since I have no concept of how small talk should work and because I’m so painfully shy…this meal could’ve been hell for me. I tend to kind of close off around new people. If they’re much, much older or much, much younger – I tend to do better. Because I don’t feel as though I’m being judged quite so much.
Her family were those kind of super welcoming people. They were just overall warm people. They were quick to joke and smiled often, and I didn’t really feel pressured to “perform” as is normally expected in that kind of social setting. It always helps that if I do something or say something stupid, my brother is there to kind of smooth it over or conceal the fact that I’m socially a mess. So while I recall paying a strange amount of attention to whether or not I was fidgeting, whether or not I was sitting up straight, and whether or not I was avoiding eye contact or else staring too long – it still went rather smoothly.
Now, as for the show… I have to inform you that my mother and I are season subscribers to the Civic Center here in the city. We go to a musical about once every other month or so. Or whenever they’re scheduled for the season. I’ve been doing this since I was about 13 years old or so. So almost 15 years? That means when I go see a show, I kind of expect a certain quality and I expect certain environments and certain behaviors.
And…well, let’s just get to what I had to say:
We finished up our meal and headed over to the theatre to watch the show. It was the oddest thing there…I found out that during intermission, it’s perfectly normal for everyone to get up and go buy a small, single-serving cup of ice-cream and bring it back into the theatre to eat while the intermission wraps up or the second half begins. I found that to be so crazy. [That would just simply not be allowed at the Civic Center. They sell candy bars in the hallway during intermission here, but you are NOT allowed to eat it inside the theatre. I got yelled at once and had to put mine in my purse.]
The Playhouse was smaller than the Civic Center but our seats were on the floor level, directly in front of the stage so it was pretty good. There was almost no room for your legs though (which was fine for me because I’m small, but the lady next to me had to sit angled towards me with her knees against the back of the seat in front of her.)
OH! They also had rentable binoculars every few seats – like little vending items – you dropped in a pound coin and they unlocked so you could use them. (We were close enough I didn’t bother, but still… that’s a brilliant idea! I should’ve taken a picture. Ah well…)
This is the closest thing I could find with Google image search.
Course these look like they’re for a 50 pence coin, but still, you get the idea.
The premise for the show was that twins are born, both boys, but the mother can’t take care of them both. One is adopted out to rich parents and one stays with his mother and her other children. Now, it’s been almost a year now since I saw it, but if I remember right, the mother worked as a cleaning lady for the rich woman. Well, time passes, and the boys meet and become best friends and the story unfolds.
When the play first started, I had a hard time following it because of the thickness of the Scottish accents. [It was a lot like when I met Kyle's flatmate for the first time. Scottish can just sound so damn fast.] But once your ear adjusts to it, it’s fine. The lady who played the mother had a KILLER, strong voice. It was just beautiful. Everyone else was good too, but she really stood out. It turned out to be a great show and a good story, as well.
After the play ended, we thanked the aunt for the tickets and said goodbye. The plan from then on was to crash at my brother’s girlfriend’s twin’s flat for the night. (Which meant another LONG walk across Edinburgh.) At 6 AM the next morning, we’d get up and go meet Kyle’s friend at the airport.
Kyle decided to be such a nice brother and boyfriend, that he left us girls sleeping til 8 or 9, at which point he came back with the friend in tow. She dropped off her huge suitcase and the four of us headed out to see Edinburgh Castle. The entire day it rained fairly steadily and it was cold. It was a rather gloomy day since the rain was more substantial than the drizzle that Charlie and I had had to contend with on Saturday.
The castle cost like 12-14 pound to get into, so Kyle and his girlfriend decided to go to a nearby pub and wait while his friend and I went in for a look around. The two of them had already seen it and didn’t see any sense in spending that much money to just look around again.
I’d never met my brother’s friend before that day, so it was a little awkward for me to go in by ourselves, without my brother who was our mutual tie/ice-breaker.
Here I’d like to just say that I’m a very touristy person. My dad has somehow passed along this habit of reading historical facts about the place you’re visiting and taking photos of things that you may not care about but you know someone back home will. So I did a lot of photo-taking for him. My brother’s friend wasn’t really interested in being very touristy and I often felt like I was holding her back, as well.
I wanted to stop and read every plaque throughout the various museum sections and read all the little facts and details about the different displays. I tried to skim a lot and read fast, but it seemed like such a shame to just rush past it all when I was so interested. So, I felt bad for her – I hope she wasn’t as bored as I felt. We seemed to get along okay and we saw pretty much all there was to see in the castle.
I’ll admit, I was slightly let down and disappointed with the castle. I had expected them to have sort’ve remade the interior to look like it did in the olden days. Instead, you’d have never really known you were in a castle, as it was all set up like modern museums with historical displays and exhibits. It was just a bit less authentic than I had expected it to be.
As we were leaving the castle, I offered to take a picture of my brother’s friend standing at the entrance, but she refused. Instead, I asked her if she’d take a photo of me before we set off to find my brother. I wanted to get at least one photo of myself there…
I took quite a few pictures inside the castle, which I’ll include at the bottom of this post in another gallery. But I have to be honest, once we left the castle, we didn’t really do a whole lot else in Edinburgh that day.
We basically traipsed around in the rain to get to the castle, then we met my brother and his girlfriend at the pub, hit up a few souvenir shops, then traipsed back through the rain to pick up the friend’s suitcase and get back to the Waverly train station. Once we were back in Dundee, I think we went back out for a night at the sports bar and some more pool — though that might’ve been Wednesday night instead. I don’t really remember these two days all that well.
Thursday, however, was St. Patrick’s Day and Kyle’s friend’s birthday. We went out to eat in the afternoon with the girlfriend and one of the flatmates [McDonald's again, I believe. Or might've been KFC...] then we split up. The girlfriend and flatmate had places to be, so myself, my brother, and the friend went to a bar called the “Nether Inn.”
Here we met up with a group of people Kyle knew but probably aren’t like his closest friends. They were all like eighteen years old or so (because the drinking age is way lower there.)
I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t really enjoy my St. Patrick’s Day in Scotland all that much. We’ve taken note of my general discomfort in social situations with lots of people. I’ve mentioned my inability to make small talk or keep pointless, “polite” conversations going. I’ve also mentioned my distaste for meeting new people.
The next several hours involved me sitting silently in a bar full of total strangers and quietly singing along to the Spice Girls because I didn’t know how to (nor even remotely want to) initiate small talk with these kids. They were only 7 years younger at the most and still, it was like looking at a completely different generation. Their topics, their jokes, their drinking…none of it was remotely appealing.
Let’s keep in mind here that I’m a bookish, goodie-two-shoes – for lack of a better description. I didn’t get in trouble growing up, I didn’t drink before I was 21, I didn’t go party with kids my own age. I stayed home and read books, I played video games, watched movies, and studied. So this environment just wasn’t for me.
Suffice it to say that I got rather irritated that night and eventually opted to return to the flat alone and browse the internet til the others got back.
Though that evening was less than exciting for me, I can’t say that it really bothered me much. I’d been there for over two weeks and was getting a bit homesick by that time. I was actually happy to stay in the flat and get caught up on some conversations with people back home.
I had a fun time on my trip. I really enjoyed meeting with all the people I met, in spite of my weird social fails. These people were some of the most friendly, most hospitable people I’ve ever met. It kind of puts your mind at ease to know that these are the kind of people surrounding the little brother who just had to up and move half a world away from any family or friends.
Did I have complaints and things I’d rant about on this trip? Absolutely. And they’re in my journal. But those pages will never make it to this very public blog. Those are for face-to-face discussions with the right people. You have to leave a little mystery, right?
My next post will begin the coverage of my journey home. And it was definitely…an experience.