Monday, October 15, 2001

Change in Venue

Change in Venue

I realized this morning at breakfast that my taste buds are gone. It seems the food the last couple of days has not been as flavorless as it seemed to me, though Ron did verify that the hamburger and fries at Burger King were tasteless. While eating the morning pastry that I have come to savor, it was without flavor at all. Knowing from previous mornings that the thin layers of crust filled with a raisin stuffed jelly was highly sweet I knew something was amiss. This morning it was like chewing on cardboard. The coffee had a foul taste at first, then nothing at all with subsequent sips. Not being satisfied with these two taste tests, I tried yet another. I put salt on my tongue. No reaction! This is very confusing since my sense of smell is fully intact; actually, it may even be more intense than normal. It is compensating? I realize that this is due to my sinus problems, but it is irritating nevertheless. My pills are in London.

This is our last day in Edinburgh. Merlin the manager of the B & B checked with the owner and our room was not booked for that evening. We were welcome to leave our suitcases in the room until we were ready to leave town. That is a blessing since the train stations here as well as London charge 4.50 pounds per piece to leave your luggage. There are no lockers for self-service. We decided we had better try calling our friend Michael who lives in Manchester, to see if he is up for a visit. Michael is one of the people we met on the Egyptian cruise and had invited us to stay with him if ever… Jean his best friend and also one of our cruise social companions has e-mail and said we would be welcomed. We called and left a message on his machine that we would call again when we were settled in.

We were off for our last taste of Edinburgh. We had not been yet to the National Gallery of Scotland. It is a small museum with works of great masters, at least in the mind of a Scots person. There were few of the well-known names such as Monet, Manet, or Cézanne. Most of the work was by Scots, British or Dutch. The gallery is small, just two floors, but the building itself is worth a look.

Ron decided he needed a Scottish wool scarf. I was not so secretly encouraging the purchase. The Supervising Nurse at the Public Health Department in Modesto had hand woven a scarf for me as a going away present. Ron had greatly admired it, so with his purchase there would not be any problem with laying claim on MY scarf. He chose a traditional black watch plaid. As beautiful as some of the tartans and plaids are, I remember my mother always warning me to not purchase wool, as it would make me itch. That is still one parental message that I have chosen not to shake. Wool does make me itch.

As a side note, it seems that Halloween is as celebrated here in Scotland as much as it is in the States. There are shops all over selling masks, costumes, make-up and all of the other festivity making supplies.

While I am on side notes, another observation that amazes me is that children seem to have a great deal of freedom in European countries. I have noticed this on past travels, but it has been more evident on this trip. In London, children that look as young as ten years old are clustered on the subways in their school uniforms carrying their book bags, riding the subway in groups, but getting off at different stations. As well, in Edinburgh, we have seen children riding the bus at all times of day presumably for school during the day and for what reasons in the evening are beyond our comprehension. To see eleven and twelve year olds riding on buses alone or with a peer at nine or ten o’clock at night is disconcerting. Perhaps, I have too many American values that need to be worked through. Since I have no authority in the situation, I am simply as sociologic observer.

We had passed a Chinese doctor’s office a few times that had listed on the window a variety of holistic and Chinese medical services. As a last resort at not having to succumb to an over the counter medication, we went in. I explained the post-nasal goings on to the young Chinese man wearing the white lab coat behind the counter. He said he probably would give me this medicine that comes in a capsule, but if I was not in a hurry, I should explain the problem to the doctor, to be certain. We said we would wait. The doctor it turned out was a little petit woman who did a waiting room consultation with me at no charge. She decided that the capsules were not potent enough, but the same medicine in a tea would do the trick. For sixteen pounds, I was given two weeks supply to be taken twice a day. She advised that the tea had a terrible taste. It did not matter to me.

We went to the Internet café so that I could do some online banking and that is when the next small crisis hit. I could not log on to Bank of America’s web site. The error was that my password was incorrect. I had been using this password for eight years and did not think I could have gotten it incorrect. My second and third attempts were as unsuccessful as the first. My nerves started rising to the surface. Panic started to set in. I had arranged to pay all of our bills and handle our finances online. My fourth attempt, the passing thought went through my mind that I may have changed the password while we were in New Jersey. Why I would do that, I could not find a justifiable answer, but when under stress, I do mindless things that will bring regret later. Attempt four was with yet another password, with no positive results. The fifth and sixth attempts were further explorations in the vast world of possible passwords, all to no avail. What I did succeed in doing was getting locked out completely. “Due to the number of unsuccessful attempts at logging on, you have been temporarily blocked from signing on at this time. Please try again later” came flashing across the screen. My anxiety level was now such that is Ron so much as asked me a simple naïve question, I would have turned into the Wolf man before his very eyes and ripped out his larynx. Trying to gain some composure, I decided to try and wait until the next day and try again. Breathe deeply. Stay in the moment. Relax this is why you are here. Leave it all behind you. So what if your credit cards get cut off for lack of payment, you’ve got friends. : )

One last museum to see before departing, The National Gallery of Scotland, was on our agenda. This small neo-classical style museum, which is free, is on the mound that connects the old city with the new city of Edinburgh. The cornerstone was laid by Prince Albert in 1850, but did not open to the public until 1859. It contains the national collections of art both European and Scottish from the years 1300 to 1900.

This was our last chance to have a coffee in Edinburgh and watch the people. We found a little café with outside seating and ordered our coffees. It smelled wonderful, but it tasted like water. I had no sense of the coffee flavor at all. With some discouragement on my part, we finished up and headed back to the guesthouse to collect our things. We were able to catch a bus a half block across the street so we did not have to lug our carry-ons to the train station. As soon as we walked into the station, the skies opened and the rain started pouring down. It seemed that every drop that had not fallen during our visit could not hold back any longer and fell at these moments in time. The force was so heavy that while I was standing with the luggage while Ron went to check the schedule, I could feel sprinkles hitting my head. The glass roof of the train station leaks and raindrops do fall on your head. In some spots, it does more than just leak, it pours in.

We are on the train heading for Glasgow. It is only a fifty-minute ride, but in differences between the cities, we have been told it is much farther apart. Many of the people we met at the guesthouse told us that they did not care for Glasgow since it was too ‘industrial’. We wanted to check it out even for a little while. We had arranged for a B & B over the Internet for 20 pounds each per night, one of the best deals we could find. Glasgow has two train stations, Central and Queens Station. The owner of the B&B told us that the easiest to come into was Queens Station and then take a taxi to the house.

Upon arriving we found the taxis and gave our destination to the driver before climbing in since he was standing outside talking to another driver. He said to the other driver, “Would you take this one? I want to stay local.” That was my first clue that we were not going to be in the heart of the city like we were in Edinburgh. My second thought was that this was going to be more than the 4 pounds that the guesthouse owner suggested it should cost. It was, but not by much. The fare was 6 pounds 50 when we arrived at this lovely and large home in a residential section of Glasgow. It has a three star rating by the Scottish Board of Tourism.

Brian one of the owners greeted us at the door. He showed us to our room, told us where the kitchen was, invited us to help ourselves to coffee or tea and showed us the large living room that was for relaxing or reading. Our room was on the first floor, with no stairs to climb. We have fear that our leg muscles may atrophy without the continued exercise of climbing up and down. Brian explained that breakfast was served from 7:30 to 9:00 am and asked if we had any dietary restrictions. Our room was beautifully decorated with matching curtains and bedspreads on two twin beds. The beds were highboys, which would have required a stepladder for most people shorter then we are to get into. The bathroom within our room was fully equipped. All of the furniture and décor throughout the house was antique. The hallways and many of the windows have stained glass pieces that they have accumulated. Brian said he is the antique collector and his partner Graham is the decorator. They were successful in making each room look like something from a magazine, yet completely inviting and comfortable to live in at the same time.

Whenever we get to a sleeping quarter whether it is for a night or a multiple night stay, Ron is like a squirrel. He has this need to hide his belongings in every available drawer and closet he can find. If we were going to stay in one place for a while, I can see doing this too, but when it is a short layover, it is more work to me to unpack and repack once again. One thing that I have learned over the years is to check every possible nook and cranny before leaving a room, as he doesn’t always remember where he stored his winter’s supply of nuts.

Since we were not near or within walking distance of the city center, it seemed our choices for dinner were limited. Since I knew I could not taste a simple or complex blend of flavors, where we ate was of little significance to me. Brian suggested a castle that had been converted to a hotel and restaurant. He gave directions, but it was dark and as we head out we did not see anything that looked like a commercial area. We turned around and tried a different direction. We allowed ourselves to be completely turned around and now just in search of nourishment of any kind. Any bright lights were signals of hope that there were businesses that served food in the area. We were drawn to the lights like moths, but were disappointed to find that many were gas stations and convenience stores. Finally, we ventured upon a poor soul sitting on a bench in the dark. He looked like he was East Indian. We asked him for directions to the hotel and restaurant and he gave us explicit directions. Where he led us was to the Punjabi Restaurant, run by a relative perhaps? Right next door was a fish and chips place where they did wrap the order in white butcher paper. I told Ron this was his chance to taste the authentic kind, since I could not taste anyway, I would not mind just eating the chips. It was a ‘take away’ only restaurant and he wanted a sit down dinner, so we had Indian.

Our order was one very spicy hot chicken dish and one moderately hot vegetable dish, hoping some of the flavors would filter through my buds. Both dishes smelled delicious. Nothing trickled through and nothing was more flavorful than the plain boiled rice, though with the hot spices, my tongue did tingle. This was starting to really bother me, but I realized that without a sense of taste, it takes less food to fill you up. After small samplings of both dishes, I was full and had no desire to continue eating since I could not appreciate the flavors anyway. Ron finished it off. The restaurant was empty when we had entered and there was only one single other diner when we left. We thought perhaps the gentleman that gave us the directions might have done so out of family preservation. The food was excellent…according to Ron. Just what I wanted to know.

Back at the B & B, we found the living room filled with people so we went to our room to read. By 11:00, Ron was already in the land of the unconscious having dreams that would elude him in the morning (he never remembers his dreams), while I was trying to ignore the noise that was coming from multiple directions. Noise was bombarding me from the living room next door, the traffic outside, and from Ron’s unsuccessful nasal and throat surgeries. Sleep was going to be elusive and so was my good nature come the morning. Less audible intrusions finally occurred close to one in the morning and I was able to entertain the thought of getting some sleep.

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