tiny bit of Mull and tours galore (2004-10-24 - 8:32 p.m.)
Wug. So much for posting again real soon to finish up the Mull trip! My life has been sort of overwhelming me lately and I seem to be having trouble keeping up, let alone actually taking the time to write it all down!
So since it's fresh in my memory, I'll start with what I've been up to... which has mostly been hanging with Paulina. She's the Polish girl I met in Belfast, one of the more entertaining people I know and a good friend. She was in Edinburgh to say goodbye to her friend Krista, who is also Canadian. To be honest I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but apparently Krista is going home (Halifax) for a bit, then running off to Egypt or something (???). Anyway, it got Paulina down for a bit, which made me happy.
I met up with them on Wednesday. Paulina called when I was en route to a BUNAC pub meet in the Old Town, which is typical of her. She'd called me once while I was in Mull, saying she'd be down this week (but not when). Then I didn't hear from her till Wed, at which point she said, "Hey, we're going on a graveyard tour in 45 minutes, want to come?" Slightly exasperating but pure Paulina, so I don't worry about it too much.
I decided to go to both the pub meet and the tour, which got interesting (particularly when we missed the 9.15 tour because Paulina and Krista were running late - went to the pub, went to the tour place, got a text from them, went back to the pub, then back to the tour place at 10.00!) However, I did have a good time at the pub. Met a whole swack of Slovakians, but ran into the old Polish Problem - while friendly, they kept lapsing into Slovakian so I had no idea what was going on in the conversation. I did meet some other Canucks and a Kiwi who were staying at the hostel, though. We swapped mobile numbers, so maybe we can meet up sometime.
The tour was pretty crap. I'm quite pleased I only paid the student price. It was one of those things where the only aim is to scare you - very short on history or facts of any kind. Also, it's DARK at 10.00 in October in Edinburgh! Couldn't see a thing of what looked like an otherwise very interesting graveyard. The guide did a lot of drama student-type shrieking and kept warning us about an alleged poltergeist that was supposed to live in the graveyard (sorry, kirkyard!) She explained that a poltergeist is supposed to be composed of the collective pheromones of people who have been scared in that location, that somehow group together and start to physically harm people! I couldn't believe it. Of course this is ridiculous. I didn't say anything to her while she was addressing the group, but I pulled her aside afterwards and asked if she was aware that pheromones are CHEMICAL compounds, which therefore disperse once they are released, and are unlikely to hang about a graveyard and start pushing people around! She stuttered a little and said she "doesn't know much about science". (Clearly!) But from that point on I gave up on getting anything out of the tour.
Then she brought us to this tiny little tomb - maybe ten feet deep by a couple of feet wide. She made us stand at the back ("so the poltergeist wouldn't get us - the energy is stronger near the door"). Then she stood at the entrance waving a torch at the roof and continued trying to scare us. Just as she'd got to the part about how people have been attacked by the poltergeist... her accomplice jumped out in a rubber mask and shouted at us. Of course this scared the living daylights out of everyone (in a dark enclosed space in a cemetary!), and I got an elbow in the gut as someone jumped backwards. sigh...
Paulina is big on tours, so we did two more the following two nights. We saw Mary King's Close, which was genuinely fascinating for what it was. Edinburgh as a city used to have a wall around it, and everyone wanted to live inside the wall. So they built upwards (tenements 13 stories high!), but they also tunnelled downwards. Under the city became a maze of houses, shops and even stables. Mary King's Close is an actual segment of the underground city, and it was amazing. Tiny little rooms and corridors tunnelled into the rock - even one place that used to be a stable! Of course the tour company had to wreck it somewhat by having the obligatory guides in historical costume, trying to scare people with stories about ghosts. However, even giving the annoying nature of the tour, the place itself was very interesting.
I did learn a bit about the plague that ripped through the place in the 1600s, though - both the bubonic plague (boils under your arms and on your neck and groin) and the Black Death (internal bleeding that turned your skin black). Also, apparently one of the haunted staircases in Mary King's Close was the inspiration for Edward Lear, who wrote the following lines:
As I was coming down the stairs
Last night we went on one final tour, and it was wonderful! It was a literary pub tour of Edinburgh. This was set up as a sort of interactive play, led by two actors. The script was amazingly well-written and PACKED with interesting information about Edinburgh and the writers who have lived here. They also quoted tons of poetry written in the Scots dialect, which interested me because I never was able to figure out how it should be spoken, seeing it written on the page! There was a lot of Burns and Scott, of course, but they brought it right up to Muriel Spark and Irine Welsh (who, interestingly enough, also writes in Scots - but the contemporary version!)
Of course, it being a pub tour and it being Paulina's last night, we ended up staying out all night staging our own little pub tour. Then we did a tour of the chippies and takeaways on the road next to my house! It was a great evening, though, and a definite high note to end Paulina's visit. She was quite taken with Edinburgh and has been making noises about moving here sometime... soon, I hope, because her very presence tends to liven things up.
But anyway... I can't remember where I'd got to with the Mull trip, and I'm too lazy (and sick of typing) to go back and check. But the undoubted high point of the trip was the boat trip to Staffa and Iona, two small islands lying off the coast of Mull. Iona was home to the ancient monestary of St. Columba, and is likely where the Book of Kells is from. Staffa is a tiny, uninhabited volcanic island with the same formation as the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, so you can imagine I was interested! We got to go to both on a tiny little ferry, which I loved as I still get quite excited about boat rides. I enjoyed Staffa the most - there was a fascinating cave and lots of interesting geological formations.
But I'm running out of energy, so I will end here. Aussie Scott arrives tomorrow to stay for three days, so the next few days should be as busy as the last few!
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