Scottish Veterans

Two Scottish Veterans in Buchanan Street, Glasgow

It is American Memorial Day on Monday 27th May to remember and honor those American servicemen who died while defending our country.  There are similar events all over the world.  In Britain we remember those fallen on the 11th day of the 11th month every year.

As an American I have so many ancestors who have fought and died for our country from the American Revolutionary War to the Civil War.  There may be others that I have yet to find.  As an American who was brought up in Scotland, I would like to pay tribute to four charming gentleman who I met on my sad trip to Scotland.

I mentioned the descriptive words disconnection, connection, familiarity and alienation in my last post.  So contradictory yet accurate.  As I walked towards my lunch date with school friends from yesteryear, I encountered various gentlemen in full military regalia.  I approached the first two and asked them if I could take their photograph.  They looked perplexed but pleased and I explained about my blog.

As I left the second group of servicemen, I thanked them for both their service and the photograph.  They looked at me as though I was a very friendly alien.  With my little blue passport and my transatlantic twang – that is exactly the right description.

Let us be thankful for all those who have given their lives in defense of their country.

 

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The Rocking Stones of Auchmaliddie

Last week I was in Texas, minding my own business, when I commented on Ailish Sinclair’s site about Standing Stones in Scotland. I told her that I remembered a beautiful white quartz recumbent stone in the field next to our rented cottage near New Deer in Scotland. At the time, the site was barely noted historically but via Ailish I discovered that they are two of the Rocking Stones of Auchmaliddie.  It was a strange moment, like the notorious series Outlander, but much cooler. I was instantly transported back to the prettiest house we have ever lived in with so many happy memories.

Puss, the hunter, at the cottage

For all the non-Scots, the Scottish Standing Stones were believed to be constructed by the Pictish people or their precursors, mostly in the North East of Scotland starting in Neolithic times. Stonehenge is a magnificent example of a similar but much bigger Standing Circle. They are found all over the south west of England, Wales, Brittany and Scotland. The people of those areas were among the earliest tribes in Britain. Not much is known about the Picts and their written language was Runic so there is a limit to our understanding. The Gaelic people were the next settlers and there language overtook the Pictish one. Certain names date back to the Picts and you can recognize them by their prefix – Aberdeen and Pitmedden are two examples. By contrast Auchmaliddie has a Gaelic root. The Picts’ name for Scotland was Alba.

We were renting the cottage at Auchmaliddie while our new house was being built in a neighboring village. Although we had been living in a hamlet previously, this was right out in the Boonies. I had to persuade the farmer to allow us to rent as the previous tenants with dogs had really damaged the cottage. As soon as we moved in, I wished we could have bought this sweet cottage instead of our new bungalow. It was blissfully quiet with gentle lowing of the cattle. That summer was particularly warm so we didn’t realize how cold and damp the cottage was. It was so hot that we had to leave the bedroom window open (that doesn’t happen in the North East of Scotland because winter is always coming beyond the wall).

Our three cats had rarely been allowed out in our last house as we were on an arterial road. At the cottage they could roam free. Pippy, our difficult cat, loved to climb out the open bedroom window, scamper down the tree and sleep with the dairy cows in the barn at the neighbor’s dairy farm. There were a glut of voles (in the US they are called meadow mice) that year and even our tooth challenged baby Puss caught one. I have a funny memory of Teddy chasing her in circles around the cottage to make her drop the vole. We had rescued Puss the year previously – she was feral and full of worms. It took so long to get her healthy that Ted was determined that she drop the dratted worm infested vole. On the way back from one of the circuits, I noticed that Puss was voleless. Cleverly, she had dropped the vole in the potato patch. Teddy searched futilely for the now deceased vole but Puss found it later and ate it much to Teddy’s disgust. He gets all OCD about parasites… wuss.

I remember when we discovered the Rocking Stones on a summer evening walk to the next field at the top of the hill. The sparkling white of the quartz recumbent stone was otherworldly. Bronze age or Neolithic folks had celebrated or worshiped on this very spot and could see the next set of Standing Stones at Aikey Brae from the summit. My first secret thought was that blood sacrifices would look spectacular on the white stone. There was no record that they did that but it was the first hint of my native Mexican blood running thought me, perhaps?? I thank Ailish for sparking a long lost memory and inspiring a series of blogs set at the cottage.  As far as I know, I did not know Ailish in Scotland even though we lived just miles apart. It is a marvelous small world.

Alternative Facts

Look at that face! How could Kerry tell an alternative fact?


I have been known to tell a few… Then I had to go to confession and tell the priest, “Father, forgive me for my sins. When Nana wasn’t looking I ate two spoonfuls of soft brown sugar out of the pantry”. I think I got an ‘our father’ and a few ‘hail marys’ for that one and looking back wondered how the nice priest managed not to laugh. The bad priest was all fire and brimstone and that’s not an alternative fact. In our household, it was a sin to steal food unless you had asked. The only exception was the fruit bowl and one December I ended up with hives at the doctor’s office because I ate a full bowl of clementines at once. God just decided to leave out the middle-man and punish me directly.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if priests were able to write funny little books about what children say in confessional? The adult version could outsell 50 shades of Gray and even the Bible… (I am visibly cringing as I write this, looking out for the bolt of lightning). As I got older, I stopped going to confession because there were too many sins. My mum said to me once, about boyfriend #4, “Are you having sex with him?” “NO!” was my outraged alternative fact. I don’t know why I lied told that fact since she caught me and was just curious. My GP asked me if I really needed the Pill for my heavy periods or was I having sex – my red face gave the game away. God has since punished me with a dodgy hoo-haa, a mental illness and myriad other health issues…

I had stopped watching the news for a while when I was feeling blue but now I actively enjoy watching Sean Spicer get angry as he tries to defend alternative facts. He seems to magically transmogrify into Melissa McCarthy and I keep waiting for him to start pushing the podium into the press corp. That girl needs an Oscar for that skit – how did she look so much like him? Even he laughed when asked about it. What sins has he committed to get that job???

People from Scotland rarely mention an appalling fact about our ILLUSTRIOUS LEADER. His mother was born on one of our outer islands where the residents were almost exclusively from a strict Protestant cult faith. If you did anything other than read the Bible and attend church on the Sabbath, you were shunned. Curiously all the Catholics and Protestants lived on separate islands – you can’t make this stuff up. Perhaps Mama Trump left for America because she couldn’t stand the restrictions but I imagine she is twirling in her grave about the various alternative facts. It is important for you to note that the population comes from a very small gene pool… That might explain many things – limited vocabulary, short attention span and generally daftness.

Here is a little puzzle for you – am I telling alternative facts below?

Our FANTASTIC, AMAZING President is going to make American white great again. We will have a TERRIFIC wall through ecologically fragile areas to protect us from the NASTY Mexicans who have made our lives miserable. Global warming is just a story – let’s open up all our coal mines and use even more fossil fuels. Why don’t we build a pipeline carrying CANADIAN fossil fuels and build more GREAT refineries on the gulf coast? They are so lucky to have close proximity to a FANTASTIC Cancer Center in Houston and we can all use it because we will have an AMAZING health care system. Finally, I am so grateful that our cabinet is full of old wise white MEN, some with TERRIFIC links to Russia.

God knows how many novenas I will have to say for those whopper alternative facts… PLEASE make my day with a comment. I will respond in the style of Sean Spicer (castigation or obsequiousness).

The Silver Tongued Irishman and the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Irish vistaI really need to finish my Tampa blogs but I thought I would amuse you with this tale. The Irishman in question, let’s call him Patrick, worked for my husband about 15 or more years ago. We met for the first time at a company function. Teddy was sitting at one side of me and introduced me to Patrick, who was quite the flirt. We exchanged funny stories about Ireland and I think he was quite enchanted by an Irish/Hispanic lady. I choked on my vodka and coke when he said, seductively and in Teddy’s earshot, “I shouldn’t sit so close to you because I am so fertile”. I fell off my seat laughing at his daring and because he didn’t know that I couldn’t have children because of infertility. Teddy looked a little shocked but started laughing too.

My favorite Patrick story (apart from the one above) is about the town he came from in County Galway. To set the scene, it had become a tourist and artist haven because it’s natural beauty. Many artists, from all around Europe and America, had moved there. Despite the fact that Ireland is a Catholic country, various missionaries had been trying to wedge a niche in the congregation. I doubt that many of them were successful as even the Catholic Church is treated with both reverence and skepticism in Ireland. But still they tried…

On this occasion, Jehovah’s Witnesses had gone to one little cottage in the town. An older woman opened the door to two smart young men. Their opening gambit was, “Do you know Jesus?” To their astonishment, the lady said (remember this is an Irish accent), “Surely, yes. If you just go to the top of the hill his cottage is on the right”. Unbeknown to the shocked missionaries, a Spanish artist had moved into the town and was called, wait for it, JESUS! The local population had no idea that it is pronounced ‘Hayzuus’ in Espanol. Ah, I love that story. 😇

As most of you know, Teddy is a rather accomplished geologist. This means that he has to believe in evolution … even here in Texas. We have fossils and minerals all over the bloody house and if you let him, he will tell which eon they come from, blah, blah, blah. We lived for years in a very remote agricultural area in the North East of Scotland. Almost everyone was some type of Protestant, some of them weird sects. They even have dry fishing boats from the major ports to accommodate some of the restrictive religions. One cold night, the door bell rung and there were two Jehovah’s Witnesses. We were astonished to see them so far out – they may as well have been in darkest Africa. Teddy invited them in and started teaching them about evolution which directly opposed the teachings of their church. By the time he had the fossils out, you could see that the younger man was becoming convinced of Darwinism. The older one took control and they left rather hastily. As soon as they did we howled with laughter and still wait patiently in Texas for some poor soul to come by the house of Satan. 😈 ☘

Pippy was a Welsh cat, Pippy was a thief.

Pippy was a thief

There is a terribly politically incorrect rhyme from my childhood that goes, “Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief”. As you can imagine, it casts disparagement onto people of Welsh origin (from the country of Wales in the UK, for those of you who suffered American geography classes. 🙂 ) Teddy and I got married in Chester, England and moved to a small town in Wales where we bought our first house. To start with, we had a lovely little hamster. I love all animals and desperately wanted a cat but Teddy was allergic (and still is, 6 cats later). Despite that, Teddy also wanted a cat. I saw an advert for a tabby kitten in our little town in Wales and we went to view. The tiger kitten had gone and all that was left was this filthy, skinny black and white kitten. My nose probably wrinkled but I saw Teddy in a haze of love. In his head, this scraggy kitten was the most beautiful black and white princess covered in fairy dust (it was just dirt). Unbelievably, he was right – she turned into the most exquisite black and white princess as you can see above.

We moved with her, back to the north of Scotland, and she was a holy terror. Trouble from the minute we owned her but we loved her anyway. She was authentically Welsh and she was most definitely a thief so that’s were the rhyme comes in. One of the many houses we lived in was a former bank in a tiny village in Scotland. The kitchen was originally the vault and the window sill was about 3 foot in depth. We had only been married a few years and had very little money (we are doing that in reverse now). The fish van had come around and I bought one fillet of haddock for Teddy. I had frozen it and decided to place it on the kitchen window sill to defrost.

Towards dinner time I went to bread and prepare the haddock fillet only to discover that Pippy had managed to eat the top half. It still looked like a fillet but a bit thinner than normal. I looked at it aghast and wondered what to do. There was nothing else for Teddy’s dinner. Eventually, I decided to wash it, cover it in breadcrumbs and hope that he didn’t notice. He ate it with great enjoyment and then I burst out laughing. “Didn’t you notice that it was a very slim fish?”. He looked appalled at first and then laughed too. I had already shouted at Pippy, who gave not a whit, and it was neither the first or last theft that the felon committed.

The Scotsman on the train

This is the main train station in Glasgow.  So many hearts have been broken under that clock.  Before cell phones we had to have a meeting place for dates.

This is the main train station in Glasgow. So many hearts have been broken under that clock. Before cell phones we had to have a meeting place for dates.

I briefly mentioned this fine gentleman in a previous post Sexual History through the Ages – Part II
A couple of years ago, I was on one of my regular trips to the UK and took some time to visit friends in Aberdeenshire. Scotland is a small country with an excellent transportation system. You can fly from Aberdeen to Glasgow but it is easier to hop on one of the frequent trains. I had to travel about 30 miles to the train station by bus and was perplexed by a young man wearing a kilt. Men do wear kilts in Scotland but not in everyday life unless they are a busker or going to a wedding.

When I arrived at the train station in Aberdeen, there were kilties everywhere! My heart sank – that meant they were travelling to Glasgow to attend an international soccer tournament and in this case it was Belgium. That is the other occasion when men wear their kilts. Drinking and soccer go together like a margarita and fiesta. We are fairly sophisticated in Scotland and the trains always have a trolley with food and alcoholic drink to purchase. As you can image, that is expensive.

We all rushed to get on the train when the barrier lifted. Sometimes you reserve a seat but usually you will find something. I managed to find an airplane seat (without a table) and ensconced myself in the window seat. The train was filling up very quickly with not just soccer fans but men returning from oil rigs. I focused on my Kindle but out of the corner of my eye, I saw a group of oil workers sitting at a table but one of them broke away from the pack and sat next to me.

Sigh! I am not usually this rude but I could already smell some liquor on his breath and I just wanted a quiet trip. His friends were sniggering like school boys about him sitting next to me. After a few minutes there was an out-stretched hand in front of me and a voice saying, “Hi, I’m Nick”. There was no alternative but to turn around and look at him. I probably gasped and my eyes might have dilated. Not only was he tall, dark and handsome but he was the spitting image of my psychiatrist. It was uncanny and I have always had a crush on my psychiatrist although it is fading after 11 years.

He misunderstood my reaction and immediately thought, “I’m in with a chance!” We started chatting and then he must have seen Kind Kerry hiding behind Sexy Kerry because he revealed to me that his mentor had just died in a terrible oil rig accident (that was all over the news) and he was devastated. I summoned up all my counselling skills and listened to him. It was fine to start with and then I noticed that he, and all the other men on the train, had their own supplies of liquor under the seat.

The steward came around with the trolley, totally out of his depth with some of the bad behavior that was already happening on this crowded train, and I ordered a glass of wine. ‘May as well join in’, thought I. As the journey progressed Nick got drunker and then noticed Sexy Kerry again. Oh dear… There was nowhere for me to go, he had lost all sense of personal space and determined to flirt with the first woman he had seen in weeks.

Coincidentally, we had been brought up very close to each other in Glasgow and I guess he thought we were the same age. He revealed he was 42 and I was about 53 then. He was convinced that we had met at one of the clubs and been intimate. More sighing from Kerry; trapped in a third of her original seat. If we had been intimate I would have been the worst babysitter in the world. 🙂

The water boarding was not yet over. Finally the drink made him aggressive and unpleasant. Swearing and talking about politics, very loudly. At long last the train trundled into Glasgow. I was stressed and irritated because I had just missed a beautiful journey by train with nostalgic landmarks. He was drunk and annoyed. I can only hope that his wife was able to deal with him better than I. I wish I could think of a moral in this tale but there is none! It was just another weird traveling story with Kerry.

Flirting on airplanes

airplane

Flirting on airplanes – it’s a special skill and it has taken me years to master it. Sometimes I mention my work at an airport to lead to upgrade on a plane. This trip to Scotland, I caught the eye of a charming middle-aged flight attendant from Lisbon. First, I complimented him on his lovely accent – that led to him giving me a ‘delicioso’ meal from business class. I heard him asking the young group of people in front of me why they were visiting and from what I could understand they were dancers on a cruise ship. The flight attendant suggested they might give some dance lessons in the galley later. I told him I could teach him the Samba and this led to 2 bottles of Cointreau from first class. We later had a short Samba in the galley…

On one occasion this professional schmoozing back-fired somewhat. I caught the eye of a flight attendant who snuck me up to Club class but he shouldn’t have. I had four wonderful seats to myself until the married businessman across the aisle came and sat next to me to chat quietly (night flight). We had fun sharing stories of disrepute. I was slightly surprised that he had a couple flings. Then…he asked me what I said during coitus. I was flabbergasted but laughingly said, “unintelligible moaning”. I could sense that an invitation to the mile high club was imminent so suggested, tactfully, he go back to his seat. During this scenario, the first flight attendant had come to visit me (he was in the next cabin) and looked appalled that someone was sniffing around his territory. No more treats for Kerry. We really haven’t evolved as much as we think we have and it is no wonder that STDs are spreading fastest between age 50 plus lovers.

I can hear you all thinking “poor Teddy – married to such a slutty Bunny”. But no…he is a handsome guy with a sexy Scottish accent who some years ago managed Europe and Kazakhstan in his particular role. Bunny was increasingly fed up with how GORGEOUS all Kazakh women were. Sometimes Blond Russians were appreciated but mostly Ethnic Kazakh were his preference. Bear in mind that there were two women to every male Kazakh at this time. He was suddenly a Greek God or whatever the Scottish equivalent was. Apparently he was the bees knees “rejecting myriad offers”… On one particular flight from Almaty (the capital of Kazakhstan) to Europe he was sitting next to a beautiful Kazakh woman, of an appropriate age, who was going to visit her daughter in the States. She was beautiful, dark with amazing cheekbones. She was entranced by the handsome guy chatting to her in Sean Connery’s accent. All was well until the meal and drinks were served. It’s a long journey – Kazakhstan is as broad as the USA. Teddy woke up sleeping on the beautiful woman’s shoulder, having drooled down her outfit. Suddenly not so attractive…. So as you can see Teddy and Bunny are a match made in heaven, both deceptively attractive. One drools and snores; the other needs a new deodorant.

There is a nice postscript to this anecdote. On the sad return journey from Scotland to Houston I used my powers for good not evil. The flight was not full and most passengers had a seat empty next to them. I started talking to the lady in my row, from Hawaii, who had just visited her new grandchild in Scotland and we celebrated that with every death there is a birth. Then I turned to the passenger on the row opposite. He was obviously of Arabic descent so I asked him where he had come from. He was in the armed forces and had just come from Baghdad. I asked if it was bad and he said yes. He was squashed next to two big guys, wasn’t wearing fatigues and seemed unwilling to ask the British Airways staff for a better seat. I went back into the galley and found a handsome flight attendant from the north of Scotland. I explained the situation and shortly afterwards he came along to the soldier and seated him in a row alone. The soldier said, “thank you, sweetie” and I responded, “thank you for your service”. I rarely say that to returning servicemen because it sometimes sounds trite and you can see that they seem traumatized. I have seen so many family reunions go badly because a loud welcome is the last thing they need no matter how well intentioned. Usually I just go out of my way to be accommodating because actions mean so much more than words. So, the next time you see a young man of Arabic descent, why don’t you just engage him in conversation? At the very least he might feel less isolated or you might find yourself talking to a real hero.