18 July, 2010

See the trailer of the BanksideFilms documentary, Jig, filmed during the course of the 2010 Irish Dance World Championships. Click here.

(The volcano in Iceland, the name of which is unpronounceable, was beginning to erupt while we were in Scotland, though it didn't really become an issue until after we had been home for about a week. Thanks be to God!)

A journal of our family's trip to Glasgow, Scotland, a trip undertaken in order to attend the 2010 World Championships of Irish Dance, held at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall located at the intersection of Sauchiehall and Buchanan Streets.

God, bless Glasgow!

We sail a ship through a star strewn sky to a Heathrow dawn.
We're Glasgow gone.
Many children heed the call:

Over midlands, toward the uplands, and on
To dance this Royal Ball.
We're Glasgow gone

(There are many links within the following discourse, please click on them to discover more.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Something is wrong. We are not getting up at 3:00AM so that we can be at the airport at 5:00AM, so that we can be on our flight at 7:00AM. No, today our departure from LAX is at the civilized hour of noon. The traffic on the 405 (freeway) is eerily light at mid-morning. (The blessing of early morning departures: It's really easy to get around in L.A. when there's no traffic.)

Ok, so where did we park? Oh, yeah, aisle D3 in Lot C. Beth writes it down because we all understand that the terrain in an airport parking lot changes over the course of a week.

We have managed to book the only flight that has ever flown from Los Angeles to London which departs in the middle of the day. Who knew!? Two-and-a-half months earlier, I had purchased our plane tickets from cheapoair.com. Would you trust an online company named cheapo air? Well, as it turns out, any mistrust we may have had was unwarranted.

Then, there's the issue of the airline we were flying on: BMI (British Midland something-or-other). We had never heard of them, but they had the lowest prices. Would you trust an airline that is closed(?!) during off hours? Incommunicado after 4:30PM. They do have a web site, though some of the features of the site never did work.

But, here we were, after the months of anticipation, on a plane (not BMI, but United. They do this "code share" thing, whatever that means) and pacing ourselves for a 10 1/2 hour flight to our first destination--London.

Do airlines lie? Do they pad their flight times so that when the pilot comes on the P.A. and addresses the cabin in flawless pilotenese (which we foreigners can only partially understand) we will be so relieved to hear that the actual time to touchdown is a mere 9 1/2 hours? My legs ache already.

I am not what you would call a movie-goer. Beth is not, either. I usually go to one movie a year, on the Tuesday night in June or July when Beth hosts her Bunco group at our house. I am dis-invited. Nothing hostile about this dis-invitation, I assure you, it is simply a matter of fact that this is a ladies social function and that I can go and pound sand.

Now, cruising at 30,000 feet with a plethora of entertainment available at my fingertips, I could catch up on my movies. What would be first? Up in the Air! (oh, the irony!) If you haven't seen it, I will tell you that it is a little deeper than you might expect, especially given the seemingly superficial personality which George Clooney plays. Well worth the price of admission, even if you are a captive audience. Which we were.

Wednesday March 31, 2010
Landing at Heathrow Airport, outside of London. One of the busiest, most confusing airports in the world. Fortunately, our connecting flight on BMI, is in the same terminal. That's helpful. We only get in the wrong line, uh. . ., queue (excuse me) one time.

When we finally get in the correct queue, I notice a pattern: the foreign nationals (that's us) have to wait while another line of British citizens is quickly ushered through.

When we finally are allowed to approach the bench, we are asked the usual borderline questions:
"What is your business in the U.K?"
"The world championships of Irish dance in Glasgow."
"You had better watch that dancing," replies the border agent, "You're no spring chicken!"
Oh, I get it, he's making a joke. Everybody laugh! (Though secretly I'm a little miffed: I consider myself quite a spring chicken.) His remark helped to allay my fear-of-authority feeling I was having just then.

We are allowed to pass, have our photos taken, endure another security check and finally board our plane for Glasgow. Well, almost. There was about a half hour delay while we waited in line at the BMI ticket counter to get our boarding passes while the BMI employees figured out how to deal with two very large parties for which there seemed to be no solutions.

57 minutes (rather than the 1 1/2 hours as advertised. It's a sign of the aforementioned conspiracy) to go. There's a storm off the east coast of Scotland which is causing snowfall in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Glasgow is good to go, though.

As we make our approach to Glasgow, the snow on the ground is evident. My first thought is to wonder if we are going to have problems getting from the airport into city centre (misspelled on purpose), assuming snow is an obstacle. A white carpet covers the low rolling landscape of hedgerows and fields as far as the eye can see.

As we drop lower, the whiteness suddenly gives way to the brilliant green we would expect to see. It appears that the entire city of Glasgow is surrounded and Glasgow itself is an island in a snowy sea.

In the baggage pickup area, I ask an official looking man a question regarding baggage. It's time to get past the language barrier issue. He kind of answers my question, but he, in turn asks me if I am part of the Feurgeson party. (Maybe he wasn't so official, after all. I think he was a driver picking someone up.)

We have our bags, head for the exit (or, way out, as it is said here) and are off to our destination, Adelaides Guesthouse.

(above) Adelaides Guesthouse (warm and inviting, isn't it?).
Part hotel, part daycare centre, part Baptist church. (shot taken from the front).

The entrance to the guesthouse is around the corner at left.

Google is a two-edged sword when it comes to travel. Using Google's Streetview feature weeks before, I had seen the building which houses Adelaides, a church complex down the street which included a small restaurant, and had even traced the route I would walk on Good Friday when I would accompany the Pro-cathedral choir at St. Mary of the Assumption on Abercromby Street.

Some of the adventure, the unknown, the discovery was eliminated by using the Google service, but it was neat, uh, cool, to see and be in the places which I had seen only in still pictures beforehand.

Our taxi driver was extremely conversant, though I must confess, somewhat difficult to understand at times. I was encouraged by the fact that I could understand him as much as I did.

On exiting the cab, the cold, strengthened by the wind and some snow flurries hit us full in the face. Welcome to Glasgow!

From what I have read, Adelaides was, and still partially is, a Baptist church. In order to save the building, space was let (leased/rented) or converted to commercial interests, including the guesthouse. There is also a daycare centre located on the site.

Something was wrong: we were warmly greeted and told our room was ready--five hours before the guaranteed time.

The room has plenty of beds: two bunk beds and two twins, so Beth and I got (or had) to do the Lucy and Desi, or, if you prefer, Rob and Laura thing for a couple of nights.

I chose Adelaides because it is only 1/2 mile from the

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, (or click here for map of Glasgow) where the competition is held. And the price was right. One thing that makes booking a hotel in Europe a little difficult sometimes is that many only allow two adults per room. Adelaides could accommodate us, and Daryl had her choice of four beds.

It's an old building and the room looks like it was used for something else at one time and converted for use as lodging. We're not thrilled, but, hey, we've got options! And the first option is lunch.

OK, it's still Wednesday, we have traveled 5115 miles (as the crow flys) in a matter of hours, and we're here! My first impression of Glasgow is similar to my first impression of Londonderry two years ago: I find it takes me a while to get used to the age factor of the cities we have visited.

Do not be offended, Glaswegians: I live in a house that is only 17 years old, in a community that didn't even exist 50 years ago. To be sure, many of these "new" areas in Southern California look run down--and worse.

But I digress: on to lunch, to Bagel Mania, where the nice young lady behind the counter informs me as I pull out my ATM card, "We only accept cash, dear." Or did she say "here?" (Sounded like "dear" to me. How sweet. (Hey, wait a minute, do I look that old?)) We have been awake too many hours and are only kind of filling our tanks here.

The afternoon is spent checking out the venue, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, George Square, and Buchanan Street, the latter being part of what the locals call "The Style Mile." I'm feeling much more at home! Buchanan Street is a pedestrian mall which at times could be covered by a sea of humanity. This sea may have been the result of trains which have just arrived at Glasgow Central.

(above) Buchanan Street, from the steps of Glasgow Royal
Concert Hall. The green figure is a statue of Donald Dewar.

Dewar was the first First Minister of Scotland, and held
office from May 1999, until his death in October 2000.

(above) Peacock sculpture atop Princes Square shopping mall on Buchanan Street.

(above) Buchanan Street. Shot taken from the opposite end,
near Argyle Street. The Royal Concert Hall is the building at the very end of the street.

(left) Another shot of Buchanan Street.

(above) First Minister Dewar, in a thoughtful, reflective
mood while looking down Buchanan Street.

(above) Taken a few minutes after the previous shot.

Notice how First Minister Dewar's countrymen seem
suddenly to be sharing his vision (or is this one of the freezes we have seen?)

Buchanan Street is a hive of activity: shoppers, workers, vacationers, Irish Dancers, street musicians. Regarding the latter, bagpipers seem to predominate. But, guitar players, some of whom were quite good, and drummers were also to be found. One group of wild highlanders set up their act in front of a Starbucks. After we got back from Scotland, I went to youtube and found a video of them that I think was taken at the exact time I saw them. click here.

One thing you have to watch out for on Buchanan Street are the pigeons, but not in the usual way you would be wary of them--if you know what I mean. Pigeons in Glasgow have a thing for dive-bombing the pedestrians--or a least getting in your personal space while in flight. All three of us experienced the sudden surprise of this object (the bird) flying inches overhead or by our faces. What's up with that?

The seagulls which roost on the roofs of the buildings seem much less a threat. From time to time a flock of gulls changes its position from one roof to another. Other than their presence, there is no sense that we are near the sea.

When dinner time arrives, we ponder our choices. In keeping with our adventurous tradition, Daryl says: "TGI Friday's." (Oh, why not?) Here we are in a city which hosts more restaurants per capita of anywhere in the world and we're doing TGI Friday's. Whatever. (Youtube video (not taken by us) in front of T.G.I. Friday's.)

I'm not lying about the restaurant thing. Wherever we went, we saw crowds of other young people (other than us, I mean), standing around some pub or restaurant or some such. Glasgow strikes me as a Scottish San Diego, only colder--and with Scots.

It seems that the locals are impervious to the chilly temperatures. Many of the young women, being dressed to the nines (whatever that means) usually lacked one thing: a warm coat. Of course, a coat might undo the whole point of all of the other garb.

We are seated at TGI Friday and enjoy the typical Friday's fare. Daryl decides she wants to go to the hall to practice, though she is extremely tired. She and I finish our dinner and prepare to leave Beth to pay the bill.

As we are leaving, we notice a party arriving. I don't think anything of them, but when we meet up with Beth about a half hour later she tells us of how people were coming up to individuals in this party and asking to have their photos taken with them. Beth asks the waiter who they are. The waiter explains that this is a dance group that had been on a television program called "Britain's Got Talent." Well, who hasn't heard of "Britain's Got Talent?" We know "Britain's Got Talent!" This dance group, Diversity, is the act that beat out someone named Susan Boyle for first place, the waiter explains. Susan Boyle!? Diversity?! Who doesn't know Susan Boyle or Diversity? Susan Boyle's story practically dominated the airwaves in the U.S. for a time. And we had seen her at California Adventure on a walkabout. Now we had seen both of the top acts from that episode of BGT.

I find getting my directional bearings to be excessively difficult in Glasgow. Finding Bath Street (let alone pronouncing Sauchiehall) was a dyslexic's nightmare. I always wanted to turn in the wrong direction. Though, regarding the latter, I hit upon a solution by remembering that one always wears one's sockies on one's feeties: Sockiehall! There!

Daryl and I get to Adelaides, get her shoes (and her sockies), head back to the hall, meet up with Beth (who gives the previously described account). Daryl practices without warming up. It's a short session.
We head back to Adelaides for a real night's sleep.

Until 1:00A.M.

Loud, angry voices, possessed by obviously intoxicated individuals who are out on the street wake me up. Much colorful language is used throughout the course of a half-hour-long argument. Though most of the argument is unintelligible, certain words, of the four-letter variety punctuate the cold, night air.

At times, it seems as though these revelers, are passing through (or passing out?) and (thankfully) out of my earshot. However, they would return and continue their mutual abuse.

It finally ended, but sleep alluded me owing to the occasional cuh-clank! of some metal object in the street which was run over by every vehicle traveling down Bath Street. There must have been a lull in the traffic, for after some space of time, blessed sleep returned.

Until 3:00AM.

Again, loud, arguing voices belonging to intoxicated revelers awaken me. Oh, what the . . ., we've been through this already, haven't we? I was curious though, were these the same loud/angry/drunken folks I had heard two hours previous, or a new lot? (I think we are going to try for a change of scene: meaning, hotel and neighborhood, tomorrow.)

Thursday, April 1 2010

Today's agenda: find another hotel (hope we don't get charged for cancellation because of the 72-hour notice policy.)

We meet two young men in the lobby, one, another manager at the guesthouse, and his friend. It turns out that both are seminary students affiliated with a large world-wide evangelical ministry.

Beth has a conversation with one of the men and mentions that we had been in Derry and Belfast for the Worlds two years earlier. At one point she notices that he refers to Derry as Londonderry, at which time she asks him if it makes a statement if one says "Derry" versus saying "Londonderry." He says that to say Londonderry is not a statement, but to say Derry is.

Considering that we are in the U.K., (albeit, the free state of Scotland) I am wondering if that makes a statement?

Today, we will be watching the other dancer from our dance school who also qualified to go to Worlds. She is a few years younger than Daryl. Her competition doesn't begin until 13:00 (that's 1:00PM to us), so there should be ample time for taking care of business--except that we slept so late, owing to our travels, that we are getting a late start. (Gee, I wonder if those revelers had a hand in our sleep deprivation?)

(above) Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
That's a group of dancers in blue at the top of the steps who are having their picture taken.

We have missed breakfast at the guesthouse (oh, well. It cost too much, anyway), but I have a solution(!)--we can go to The Oasis (really, that's its name) restaurant which I discovered on Google's Streetview (again) which is part of the Renfield St. Stephen's Church complex.

The Oasis is just that, a quiet, morning, kind-of-place. It is very clean, a little cafeteria feeling, though that sense is diminished by effective lighting. I notice some photographs on a far wall. At one point I approach to take a look at them and notice that, of course, they are all for sale. I try not to disturb the gentleman sitting at a table near the wall of photos, who reads a newspaper while drinking tea or coffee.

Off to the hall! I separate and go off to Starbucks on Buchanan Street to use some bandwidth. One of the problems we have been encountering at Adelaides is the lack of internet connection. The literature I had read prior to booking said that there was internet access. Well, there was, sort of. It had been our intention that with our new laptop computer, Skype and our Flip video camera, we would be so technically geeky! We would be uploading pictures to blogs and sites and updating our trip. We would be Skyping with my mother in Northern California or other families from Daryl's dance school.

We had expected there to be Wi-fi or at least a hardwire connection in the room. No. The internet access consists of a laptop on a table in the corner of the hotel reception area. It's public enough, but slow, and not as accessible as this power-user family is used to.

I confess: there are times when Beth, Daryl, and I are each on his or her own computer system AT THE SAME TIME! (I am trying to remember if there were ever times when Susannah, our older daughter, was still living at home when the four of us were each on his/her own computer (I wouldn't put it past us)).Anyway, we had thought we would be out in the field, exploring and such, and at the end of each day be uploading all of the video and pictures we had taken that day. We had even bought a new laptop system to aid in such. Well, it wasn't happening.

Now, searching at tripadvisor.com, I found lodging at a hotel of the same chain we had stayed in two years previous while we were in Dublin-Jurys Inn. Best of all, the price was nearly the same as Adelaides(!), owing to the upcoming Easter weekend, I suppose.

It's so weird to be able to look out of the window from the Starbucks I was conducting this business in, and see the name of the street (Buchanan) posted on the corner of the building across the street and then go to the Google maps site and plot out the course I was about to walk to Jurys Inn in order to book our new room.

I needed to walk there, as I did not want to secure the booking using a credit card on this unsecure network. It's only half a mile away.

Buchanan and Sauchiehall Streets intersect directly in front of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. These streets are mostly pedestrian-only and much shopping and eating places (eating is good) are to be found.

There is a Santa-Monica-Third-Street-Promenade feel to Buchanan--only, Buchanan is nice, whereas the former is, well . . . you know. . . not.

"Hi, ya!" the young woman behind the counter cordially greeted in brogue.
"Hi, ya!" I somewhat self-conciously replied. (Is that what I am supposed to say?)

After explaining why I had walked down the street to book the room, rather than booking online, and thinking all the while, "She must think this rather odd, to have some guy with a foreign accent come in off the street saying that he can expect to pay 429 pounds for five nights' lodging for a room that ought to go for closer to 1,000 pounds.)

She bought it. Well, no, actually that (429) was the reduced price.

With our lodging issue out of the way, I could resume life. On to the hall!

Dear family and friends, if you have never attended a feis, let alone the Oireachtas or Worlds, know that there is frequently a lot of sitting around and waiting for something to happen: like, scores, for instance!

Somewhere in that vast expanse of time, Beth and I managed to trek off in order to forage. We found a corner eclectic take-away pizza and haggis shop, Pizza Crolla. I had wanted to try haggis (pics) (info), but wasn't sure if a fast-food take-away restaurant would be the best place for the haggis neophyte.

The menu is interesting: fish and chips; black pudding (you will remember black pudding from a previous adventure); pizza; salads; mince-meat pies; haggis.

On the subject of haggis, Beth wanted no part of either eating, or hearing about me eating haggis. I mentally mapped out when I might be alone at an appropriate mealtime, so that I could sneak out to the pizza shop, my eyes darting side-to-side and looking over my shoulder:

"Excuse me, but, may I have the haggis, please?" I would whisper hoarsely to the haggis chef across the counter.

"Aye," he would reply, somewhat doubiously.

"I've never eaten haggis," I would say, apologetically.

"Truly? I would have never known," he would offer, while not laughing in my face.

In the end, I never did try haggis while we were in Scotland due, in part, to my personal misunderstanding of what constitutes offal, given that this "offal" makes up some of the ingredients of haggis. I was thinking that offal is, well, the stuff that hits the ground (need I say more?). It turns out, that is not what offal is. Offal is simply those parts of the animal that are considered to be inedible--by some. One man's offal is another man's delicacy. (Hope I haven't ruined anyone's appetite.)

We ended up ordering two small pizzas, which turned out to be way more food than either of us needed. Anticipating future need of quick food (the schedule of Irish dance events does not allow for regularly scheduled mealtimes), we asked an employee how late the shop stayed open. 4 A.M. Yikes! (But, if you are ever in Glasgow in the wee hours of the morning and have a hankering for haggis, you know where to go.)

I sneaked the leftovers, in the box, hidden under my jacket, into the hall. We weren't supposed to bring in food from the outside--there were signs posted. I was glad that no one came up to me and said anything about how it looked like I had been working out, given that my chest was rather bulked-up by the pizza box.

Our friends, the Stewarts (I suppose it's O.K. to identify them) daughter recalled! To get recalled at Worlds is a big deal! Most don't. After two dances, the judges select the top-scoring 1/3 from the field of dancers to advance (the recall)--the other two-thirds go home or go sightseeing.

We felt like some of those famous Scottish salmon when trying to get into the room in which the recall dances were held. Between dances, the door-watchers (not their official name) would open the doors to the room so that people could either enter or exit the room. It was a totally up-stream exercise, taking about seven tries before we could get close enough to the door and work our way through the opposing tide of people into the room.

Our last night at Adelaides proves uneventful. Zzzz.

Friday April 2, 2010
Good Friday. A very different Good Friday, given that I have not been occupied with any of the musical preparations for Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, nor Easter. It has been an extremely relaxed and fruitful Lenten season.

It is also going to be a different Good Friday because I am going to sing with the choir from St. Andrew's Cathedral here in Glasgow! I had contacted the cathedral a few months earlier in order to discover if it would be all right to join in with the service on Good Friday. I had intended to do this while in Belfast two years ago, but didn't make it happen.

Monsignor McElroy (we would call him the parish Administrator, here) had passed my email on to the Choirmaster, uh, Choirmistress(?), Maria, who contacted me and let me know I was welcome. We corresponded several times in the weeks/months before meeting.

The Cathedral was, and is, being renovated. Another church, St. Mary of the Assumption, is serving as pro-Cathedral during the renovation period. I took pictures of the interior of St. Mary's, but they were too large to transfer from my phone.

His Holiness, Pope Benedict, will be visiting the U.K. in September. He will be celebrating an open air mass in Glasgow during his visit, before heading south to England.

We need to get Daryl to the Concert Hall and all of our luggage to Jurys Inn, but first the important stuff--breakfast!

Breakfast at the Oasis again. The gentleman I had observed sitting at one end of the restaurant the previous day was seated at the same table, reading the newspaper--hey, maybe even the same newspaper. I imagined that, had we gone to the Oasis each of the days while in Glasgow, he would be seated at his table.

We have all of our luggage, Daryl's dress bag and the laptop with us, as we are going to be getting in a taxi immediately after breakfast. Fortunately, there is a taxi stand (or is that queue?) just around the corner.

Much hilarity ensues when our driver enlists the aid of some of his fellows to put our bags into the cab. Whether they were genuinely cheerful or just making fun, we don't know. There seemed to be much joking going on.

When we get checked into our room, I understand why it was so cheap: we are right next to Glasgow Central Station! Panic sets in. How do you sleep with all of this activity going on? I begin to realize that I am seeing trains passing slowly by our window--but I am not hearing them. On close inspection, we discover that there are two sets of dual glazed windows between us and the train yard. You literally cannot hear the trains.

(above) Glasgow Central Railway Station.
Taken from our hotel room. If you are a train geek, you are probably drooling.
The time approaches for me to walk off to St. Mary's for Good Friday services. I had seen the route a few weeks earlier on Google Streetview. There was a sense of deja vu the entire way.

It's an easy, 1 1/2-2 mile walk. I feel great! It is wonderful to be here on this of all days heading to church to thank and worship the Lord.

Making my way into the church, I see a young woman and ask if she is in the choir. She indicates that she is and asks,
"Are you the American?"
Well, yes, I am. I introduce myself and she does likewise, though she asks if I understood her when she said her name.

Oh, why do I do this? Why do I launch headlong into the abyss of embarrassment?

She pronounces her name again. I don't understand what she says, but instead of acknowledging that fact, and saying something like: "I'm sorry, could you repeat that, please," I take a stab at pronouncing what I think is what I heard her say.

I made up some never-before-heard name in that instant, a name which probably belongs to no one.

Others from the choir are making their way into the church. I meet Sister Teresa. We take our seats, at which time I meet James, Liam and Tom, the men of the choir. Seventeen women vs. four men, including me.

James asks me where in America I am from.

"Los Angeles," I respond. It's easier to simply say Los Angeles than Canyon Country, because you have to explain where Canyon Country is and we were supposed to be keeping quiet in the church before the service starts.

The Director of Music, Maria, comes in and introduces herself.

By way of introduction she says: "Everyone, this is Bruce, Bruce this is Everyone."

I receive a folder of music from her which she had prepared for me in advance.

We are rehearsing some of the pieces we are going to be singing for the service. At one point, Maria is giving instructions to us. James leans over to me and whispers (now, imagine a real Scotsman (as opposed to an actor) whom you have heard speak):

"Do you need an interpreter?"

"No, I'm doing fine," I reply, somewhat amused.

"We tend to speak fast."

At another point during our rehearsal James asks:

"Is there anything else Scottish about you?," referring to my first name. James appears to be a man in his 70s, though the woman whose name I brutalized informed me beforehand that one of the men in the choir is in his mid-eighties. Well, that's neither Liam nor Tom, so that means. . . I'm sure you follow the train of thought.

(I hope that my voice sounds as good as James's when I am his age.)

I feel constrained by the request of the church for quiet at this pre-service time, but I also don't want to be rude. How do you explain in these circumstances that everything you have ever considered yourself to be--Scottish, Irish; or Scots-Irish; or Scot and Irish, comes from these islands where he lives? (Once upon a time, I would have used the word Scotch to describe national origin, but the word refers to the whiskey only.)

As it turns out (and I did not know this at the time), when you use the word "Scotch," you are referring to the whiskey, not to a person.

How do you explain that you are, and have always been, proud to be of Scottish descent? (O.K., enough gushing.)

I tell him that I was born Bruce Merrill Wilkins, but go no further in the explanation, owing to the complexity of all of that stuff.

The service is short compared to what I have become accustomed to over the last 10 years at St. Martin of Tours, Brentwood. There are 6 or 7 priests and one fainting alter server. I am trying to remember at which point in the service he fainted, as I thought it timely at the moment, but have forgotten.

I am sightreading most of the music. I thank God for that gift. There are two instrumentalists sitting over my left shoulder. Good. They will cover my mistakes.

The service concludes too soon. Those around whom I was seated, and I, exchange farewells. I am exiting the church, when one of the clergy intercepts me.

"Are you the American?" he asks.


"I'm Father McElroy. Though you probably pronounce it Mac-EL-roy."

"I've heard it pronounced both ways. My grandmother was a McElroy," I say, pronouncing it the right way.

I want to stay and chat, but feel some internally manufactured pressure to get back to my family.

"Cheerio," I hear people saying to each other outside as they part company. I suddenly realize that I have the music folder Maria had prepared for me in my hands. After a quick return I am off to City Centre and our hotel.

Photos from the St. Andrews site of the choir showing Maria conducting.(This is exciting because this is the very space in which we performed on Good Friday, the earlier pictures from this link were taken at another location.)

What a walk that was! The Spirit blessed me wondrously on my walk back to City Centre. On this of all days, I have participated in one of the holiest occasions of the Christian year. I have kissed the feet of The Savior as a sign of my veneration, yes, of the cross, but more importantly, of Him. (If none of the foregoing makes sense to you, I would be happy to explain it to you sometime.)

After the months of anticipation, it is over. I walk back toward central Glasgow in shoes a wee bit too formal for walking, passing through a neighborhood which looks curiously Irish and a place called The Barras. There are a number of pubs and shops which seem to be overtly Irish in nature. There are several flags of the Republic of Ireland in evidence. I am also noticing groups of people wearing what I suppose are football (that's soccer, to us) jerseys which are a fluorescent green and white horizontal stripe--akin to what we called surfer shirts back in the 60s.

I've been hearing about the football matches going on currently and wonder if the striped shirts are in some way related to that. In fact, today, for the first time ever, the pubs in Ireland are open on Good Friday because of a particularly important match. There doesn't seem to be such a scruple in Scotland regarding the pubs. I had wondered in advance, but it is business as usual. I am not judging--just reporting.

I pass through Glasgow Cross, a major intersection in City Centre Glasgow.

(above) Tolbooth Steeple clock tower at Glasgow Cross.

Gallowgate becomes Tron Road which becomes Argyle Street, which leads to home. On Argyle, which is a pedestrian mall at this point, I pass a large pub, Maggie May's, which I am tempted to go in to and indulge in a pint, but don't. The glasses of golden amber liquid beckon. There will be plenty of time--and pubs--for that. Besides, just a few doors up from our hotel is the Crystal Palace, the Mother of All Pubs. (I put that last part in myself.)

My mood is expansive: singing with my Scottish brethren has truly been a blessing. It is the same sense of belonging which I felt two years previous while in Belfast. I feel so very at home.

In retrospect, I have regrets. Regrets that I did not choose to include myself with the Easter Vigil and Sunday festivities. It would have been wonderful to have been more involved: to live the entire process from the solemnity of Good Friday; through the warmth of accepting new members into the Church at Easter Vigil; to hear the proclamation of Exultet (which yours truly has become used to singing the last couple of years); to the glory of resurrection(!) on Easter.

I had wondered before our trip what the Scottish-Catholic perspective (if there is such a thing) of the Troubles and political situation in Ulster, Northern Ireland is. What kind of brew is stirred in a people with fierce ties to their own national identity; with ties to the English; and with their religion? Would the opinions be monolithic?

The questions are not those which can be broached casually. But, still, I was interested in knowing the answer.

Beth, Daryl and I meet up at the hall and begin the forage for food. As we were about to leave the concert hall, I notice that a police vehicle pulls up in front of the hall. Three duos of police emerge and begin to walk down Buchanan. I wonder why they are here in such evidence at this time? As we pass the vehicle, I can see it is a mobile command unit. The police are spanning out along Buchanan. We get to the end of Buchanan, to turn toward our hotel and notice an ambulance, parked, as if waiting for something to happen. Unruly football fans, I wonder?Maybe. I don't know. We had heard before our trip that Glasgow is a tough place. One dance instructor had warned the girls to travel in groups. This assessment alarmed me initially. In investigating the issue, I learned of the NEDS (Non-Educated Delinquents) phenomenon and wondered now if this military presence was in anticipation of potential violence. The NEDs are into knives ('cause they ain't got no guns). Ouch!

I've gone on Youtube a few times and have learned a bit more about the socio-economic situation in Glasgow and the youth culture there.

(An aside regarding the grittier side of Glasgow: I had forgotten about an incident a few years ago in which a couple of Central Asian guys drove an explosives-laden Jeep Cherokee through the front door of the main terminal of Glasgow International Airport (hoping to blow the place up--what else?) only to set themselves on fire and then to be beaten by some of the Glaswegians present. One gentleman, uttered the sound bite which summed up the event: "This is Glasgow: we'll set aboot ye!" Aye, lads! This incident speaks to the rough self image of which we were told. Queen Elizabeth II honors 7 of the citizen responders

We did see a couple of scuffles: two men brawling on the sidewalk across the street from our hotel, for instance. They had each other in a headlock. They seemed to have reached an impasse, but we didn't stick around to see how things were going to progress.)

Saturday April 3, 2010
Beth and I leave for breakfast and let Daryl sleep. We walk up the street a bit to find one of the local chain restaurants where we can get breakfast. There was this busy Scottish place on the corner, called McDonald's, I think, but they seemed to be serving hamburgers. Weird.

This will be the only time I have the full Scottish breakfast. It seems there is a competition about the nationality of the full breakfast in Ireland and Scotland, with either nation calling this breakfast its own. Of course, in Northern Ireland, you will encounter the "Ulster fry," too. Regardless, with this breakfast I was given a really healthy (large) slice of black pudding. The woman who cuts my hair gets very freaked out when I tell her what's in black pudding. I love to freak her out.

After breakfast, we decide to walk across the River Clyde, well, not actually on the water, but on a bridge over the river. The neighborhood on the other side of the river is not so nice. We make our way to a pedestrian bridge from which we see the bright orange and red tiger painted on a wall.

(above) Pedestrian bridge over the River Clyde. Is that Napoleon Dynamite's favorite animal, the Liger? Well, no, it turns out to be an ad-VIR-tesment for a beverage, as I remember. (The Liger is half lion, half tiger. The reference is rather dated, given that the Napoleon Dynamite movie came out in 2005.)

Today is to be a shopping day--for Beth and Daryl-- and a walking and exploring day for me. Besides, I had already done my shopping at one of the plethora of Pound Shops (pronounced like "pined" to us). These stores, and their knock-offs, are the equivalent to our 99-Cents Only stores, or to the 2-Euro store we encountered in Dublin on our trip there in March of 2008.

A day or two earlier, I had purchased a Scottish flag and Royal Standard, at the Pound Shop for a mere--what else--1 pound each. Sure, there's a lot of useless stuff. One thing I noticed they didn't have, though, was the strap-on rear end that has "Kiss my (you know what)" written on it. We had seen these at the aforementioned 2-Euro Store in Dublin. Must be an Irish thing.

(For all of you graphics geeks out there, the official color of the flag of Scotland is Pantone PMS 300. So there!)

I have learned since returning home that the Royal Standard is only rightly to be used by persons of authority and not by American tourists hanging it from their garage eves on St. Andrew's Sunday in November. (That's more of a Presbyterian thing, anyway.)

I leave the shopping contingent and set out on my own, first walking up Buchanan St. toward the hall, hanging a left onto Sauchiehall, my destination being Glasgow's West End and Kelvingrove Park.

You know, I'm not really wearing the best shoes for walking today. We have been walking so much--from the hotel to the hall, from the hall to the hotel, all up and down Buchanan and Sauchiehall--that my feet are painfully swollen. They are so hard and swollen that they kind of crunch at times.

Some weeks before our departure for Glasgow, I had emailed Alice Kelly, the woman who, with her husband, Stephen runs the Avenue House Guesthouse in Belfast, where we had stayed on our previous trip. The reason I had contacted her was to see if she might recommend a guesthouse in Glasgow. Well, as it turned out, she could! She had stayed in Alamo House while visiting a niece who is attending Glasgow University.

I felt that Alamo House was really too far from the Concert Hall, and so declined to book there.

I was headed in the general direction of Glasgow University, Alamo House and Kelvingrove Park. I really wish I had worn my good walking shoes. I arrived at the border to the park and realized that there was no way I was going to walk down the hill into the park and walk back up. I thought I had taken some pictures of the park, especially of a particularly peculiar blue bird. It was not a bluebird, but, rather, a bird that happens to be blue. And black. And white.

Sometimes my big fingers don't work so well on these small keys on cell phones. I think that I am saving shots, but later, I find something else has happened. Like, nothing. While searching at youtube, I found this really great video of the park in the dead of winter: click here.

I did not pass by Alamo House (I wasn't really looking for it, anyway) nor did I get as far as the university, but meandered along the River Kelvin.

A Mad Wee River Kelvin.
There are videos on youtube showing the river in a less swollen state.

I found a pedestrian bridge which I had noticed earlier on my way to the west end. This allowed me to get to the other side of the motorway and landed me on a street where I discovered the locations of five other guesthouses we had considered staying at--all next door to each other.

Realizing that this was the general area where I was going to attend Easter mass, I found my way to St. Aloysius parish church. I'll be back tomorrow.

To return to the narrative: We look kind of gamely at the Crystal Palace. It's crowded, it's Friday. Good Friday, at that. They claim to be family friendly. We enter, but make a hasty retreat as the women in our party feel kind of uneasy at the male-to-female ratio in the place.

So, it's back into the cold, up the street and into The Goose for us! The Goose is a pub. I'm overdressed, owing to the all-black outfit (including tie) which I have worn to church and out of which I have not changed (it's one outfit per day on these trips!) But, that's OK because the sign on the door clearly states: "Smart Dress, no Hoodies, no Football Colours." (Not that we know what the local football colors, er... colours, are. And what's a hoodie, anyway?) Beth's colours are a wee bit questionable, though: orange and green. Maybe the locals spot us for the Americans we are and excuse our color indiscretion.

As I order our food and drinks at the bar, I notice that two gentlemen are listening in as I place our order. I surmise that they are aware that we are not from Glasgow. I order a pint of Guinness for myself at which they nod approvingly.

Our first night in our new digs. Logon to the internet. We're gonna Skype, we're gonna upload pictures, we're gonna be in touch with everyone back in the U.S. Hmm, this is a little slow. Facebook is a little flaky: behaving normally one minute, freaking out the next. Maybe we won't.

Gentler than Glaswegians set aboot ye,
God's Holy Spirit set aboot me.
Though pulling from the flame in kind,
A different sort of end in mind.

Sunday April 4, 2010

Easter! Auferstehen! (huh?) That's kind of random. It means resurrection. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!

How do I know that, you may ask?

The Holy Spirit is the evidence and the Advocate for, and of, Jesus Christ. Jesus freely gives the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit who created you, and me and everything which lives or breathes or has being, to all who will simply invite Him into their lives and hearts. He, the Spirit, is the constant companion of all who have received Christ. All YOU need do is ask. My prayer for you, dear reader: may God open your mind, that you might know Him.

This is also the day which we have been waiting for. . . well, since last year. Today Daryl dances. (On Easter?) Yes, on Easter. The Powers-that-Be of Irish dance have designated that Holy Week is an acceptable time to hold the world championships because the kids are all off from school. Practicality.

The Senior Ladies (imagine being senior when you're in your early twenties) competition begins at 1:00PM. But, I am off to church at St. Aloysius. As I approach the front door, I fall in behind a group of young(er) people who I imagine to be the parish youth group or some such. My imagination is too active.

I make my way to the front of the church. After saying some prayers, I realize I neglected to pick up today's bulletin--which would aptly inform me of the hymns, et al, which we will be singing today. Nor have I picked up the hymnal. I hate being high maintenance, but sometimes you just need to have someone there to tell you what you need. Just ask Beth.

So! I get up and retrieve all of the necessary items, return to the pew I had initially chosen and wait for mass to start. I know that this is not going to be a full choral, high mass. I had emailed the church a few weeks earlier in order to see if I could join the parish choir here at St. Aloysius at Easter mass, only to be told that THE CHOIR WOULD NOT BE SINGING ON EASTER!? (The foregoing all-caps are not to be interprteted as yelling, but. . . but. . . WHO HAS EVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING?! (not yelling. . . not yelling.)

The church choir does a lot for Holy Week, Triduum, Vigil and Easter. I know. And yet, I have never been pressed into service for the entire field of observance.

Let me regain my composure. The service is about to begin when a family seats itself in the pew behind me. I notice: they have candles. Why do they have candles? I notice that everyone in the church has a candle. Everyone--except me. (I am not getting up again and going to the back of the church and getting a candle!) Besides which, who does the candle thing on Easter Sunday, anyway? That's a nighttime thing.

When it comes time for us to light our candles from oneanothers' the gentleman who is seated in the pew behind me with his family, loans me one of his family's candles. I don't feel so left out.

Interior of St. Aloysius R.C.C., Rose Street, Glasgow.

After mass, as I am returning the hymnal to the stack at the back of the church, an older gentleman approaches me, introduces himself and inquires if I would be interested in joining the Monsignor for coffee. In my usual I-need-to-hasten-away mode, I decline. Mr McDonal (no "D" on the end, as I am informed), the gentleman, asks where I am from and what my business in Glasgow is (not that bluntly, though). The pastor of St. Aloysius, Fr. Peter Griffiths, SJ, joins in our conversation. We briefly converse as I explain that he and I corresponded a few weeks earlier regarding my perhaps joining their choir (which wasn't going to be singing anyway) on Easter.

After parting company, I walk back down Sauchiehall to the Concert Hall. Daryl's competition begins at 1:00PM. There is a lot of waiting around. Fortunately, the Stewarts, Bella (the O'Connor School instructor) as well as Attracta, (the girls' dance coach) are all there to wait around with.

Looking about the grand hallway we were in, I notice that one of the people present is the gentleman who lent me a candle at mass earlier in the day. At some point, I introduce myself. He is originally from Pennsylvania but now lives in Belgium. I ask if he speaks Flemish, thinking that is one of the dialects in Belgium. He informs me he speaks French. I probably insulted him: I have learned since returning home that there is a strong cultural divide in Belgium between French-speakers and Dutch-speakers. Flemish is probably only spoken in Liechtenstein, anyway.

Daryl comes up in the rotation, dancing her hard-shoe dance, a hornpipe, with two other young women. Each dancer dances for about 1 1/2 minutes, but the entire round may still take close to 1 1/2 hours owing to the sheer number of competitors and interruptions due to conditions such as falling, which can slow things down.

Between rounds, we discuss the Stewart's trip to Edinburgh, which they had taken the day before. Rick, the Stewart dad-guy, is a golfer (need I say more?) If you are a golfer and you find yourself in Scotland, you must make a pilgrimage to St. Andrew's, a wee bit north of Edinburgh.

Daryl's second round, her soft-shoe dance, the reel, is danced. Now the REAL (no pun intended) waiting begins. And, what are we waiting for? The recall.

The empty stage of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

As said previously, the recall is a milestone in a dancer's career--especially at Worlds. So, we wait. And wait. And wait some more. Well, it is getting close to the dinner hour. That will give us something to do. The restaurant in the hall is closed, but(!), we know where to go! Pizza Crolla (again).

A flurry of activity ensues: Who wants what from the takeaway place? Is there anything there that certain parties of our little group can, or can't, eat? Oh, we'll find something.

We set out into this sweet Easter Sunday eve, clopping down the chewing-gum-spotted front steps of the hall and down Buchanan Street to our culinary oasis. The sun has fallen below the tops of the buildings to the west side of the street, leaving the world--our narrow Buchanan Street portion, anyway--in a shadowless twilight.

The Stewarts had not been in this place previously, so we had a delightful time informing them of the uniquely varied menu. It turns out that the "pizza" place was just up the street from the church where the Stewarts had celebrated Easter earlier in the day. It is a church with history, judging from the architecture, though the current congregation appears to be of a more (dare I say it?) American-style evangelical nature.

Hey, that's cool. Being one who has experienced a large stabilizing dose of American-style evangelical Pentecostalism, I have no problem with that.

Rick is going to have his third fish and chips meal since arriving in Glasgow. We're ordering pizza for the girls and I forget what else for Bella and Attracta. I'm doing mince pie. This isn't the Thanksgiving desert which we in the States (some of us, anyway) are familiar with. This pie is basically hamburger in a pastry shell. I thought about the haggis, but in deference to Beth, restrained myself. Oh, and can I get a sausage, too? At which point, the employee asked earnestly,

"You mean the smoked sausage, correct?"
She just wanted to be sure, given that she would have correctly assumed that most Americans would not knowingly order the black pudding--which is also a sausage (or looks like a sausage). I appreciate her attention to the sensibilities of foreign visitors.

Now, to walk back into the hall with bags of what is obviously food purchased on the outside. This time there was no attempt to hide the infraction. But, what were they going to say? Their cafe was already closed. The Oireachtas was winding down. We have to eat! Various venue personnel eyed me and looked as though they might challenge us. We just kept walking like we owned the place.

We eat, we wait, we wait, we eat. Finally, the recalls are going to be announced. This is the moment. Daryl's number is 103. They will begin with the lowest number in the competion, 100. Beth and I clutch each other's arm. The first two numbers are called out, then, 103! A single handclap from both Beth and myself punctuates (!) the announcement. Decorum demands that no overly enthusiastic responses be allowed at these moments, though as recalled numbers are read, you will hear very brief expressions of victory, such as ours.

Now, we get to do the Scottish salmon swimming upstream thing again in order to get into the recall room to watch Daryl dance her tradtional set dance. She dances. It is over, except for the waiting.

Waiting for the scores at Worlds is an agonizingly slow and, as it turns out, unclimactic exercise. The scores for each of the three dances which the finalists danced are read, one dance at a time. For those whose minds work nimbly calculating the math, the answer as to who the winner(s) shall be comes much more quickly. For those of us, as myself, whose minds feel like gelatin much of the time, we just wait until someone official gives us the rundown.

The placements were read, and, one-by-one, the dancers appeared on stage.

Did I say that recalling at Worlds is a big deal? Yes, I seem to remember saying so. And there was Daryl on stage now with the rest of the recalled, receiving her award.

To view the "live commentary" of the day's events in the hall, click here.

(above) Top row: Bella Yerina; Robin and Rick Stewart.

Bottom row: Daryl, Beth, me. Who's missing?: the Stewart's daughter,
Emily (probably taking the picture), and Attracta.

Daryl on stage, after awards.

After awards.

It has been an extremely gratifying day. Daryl has recalled. Our trip has been at least what we had hoped.

I do wish I had taken the time to have coffee with Fr. Griffiths and Mr. McDonal and my other brothers and sisters, though.

Monday April 5, 2010
We're off to Edinburgh today! We are in the terminal of Queen Street train station. Uh-oh, an obstacle: we need to buy our tickets from an automated kiosk. We all wish Susannah was here. She would know what to do. We finally figure it out, though, despite nearly walking away from the kiosk before our return tickets were printed and dispensed.

Once away from Glasgow, the train travels through a landscape of low, rolling, green hills and fields. The day is typically one of gray overcast, occasional rain, clearing, gray, rain--the ongoing cycle of the days on these islands, it seems. Occasionally, the ruins of some ancient castle come into view. We stop at the village of Linlithgow. The name captures my attention. I don't know why. A quite well-preserved castle is evident. As it turns out, Linlithgow is the birthplace of Mary Stuart, Queen of the Scots. Who knew?! (A lot of folks, probably.)

After a trip of about an hour, we arrive at Waverley station in Edinburgh.

What a beautiful, old city this is! One which stirs the imagination of the artist and writer to create new works inspired by her beauty. In our case, however, we will take the hop-on, hop-off bus wherein our very knowledgeable tour guide will spare us the necessity of creativity or imagination and simply spoon feed us centuries of history in 45 minutes. Not bad!

Edinburgh Castle, taken from the bus.

I'm on the lookout for a pub, or restaurant, or something like one of those where some famous author who wrote something like Harry Porter and the Temple of Doom used to do her writing. They had pointed this establishment out to the Stewarts (no relation to the aforementioned Mary Stuart--at least I don't think so) a couple of days previous, when they had taken this same Edinburgh tour, but, they seemed to be very secretive about the location of this pub or whatever.

Edinburgh is a trifle more touristy than Glasgow is. Good and bad, I suppose. Where as Glasgow is more of a WYSIWYG town, Edinburgh fairly reeks of tourism. Cheap kilts and every Scotland trinket known to man. It's too bad, but understandable. Most of the gift shops are on the Royal Mile.

The Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh is one of the retreats of the Royal Family (this is the U.K., after all). Our tour guide informed us that when Mary Stuart lived in the castle, she gained a reputation as an extremely fastidious woman regarding personal hygiene, for, she bathed at least four times a year! (Maybe, it was only three times, I forget.) If you saw how far away from the royal quarters the bathhouse is, you would understand. And, too, it's cold much of the time on this island.

Back side of the castle.

Not to be outdone by the Stewarts, we had to eat lunch at the very same place they had two day previous, Garfunkel's. Sounds savory, no? I wanted to try one of their Scots-brewed beers, but they were out. Rick probably got the last one.

After lunch we went into one of those quaint Scots gift shops in the new part of Edinburgh. The Disney Store is what I recall it being named. I happened to have my Disney birthday gift card which we Southern California residents have come to view as an entitlement. There's nothing to buy in any of those stores, but there is something to steal! Someone thought so, anyway. As we were approaching the door to exit the store, a woman suddenly bolted out of the door in front of us, setting off the alarm. I looked toward the cashier. They did not seem concerned. I stepped out onto the sidewalk and looked up the block in the direction the woman had run to see her darting in between pedestrians and into oblivion.

Oh, well. If Scotland Yard needs me, they know where to find me.

Beth and I want to re-visit Edinburgh. Three hours of an afternoon are not enough.


Beth and Daryl on the grounds where the Tattoo is held.

(below) For some reason, the inscription below calls to mind a quote 
of Mark Twain: "Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."
(Though not in the case of Robert the Bruce.) The plaque appears
on the archway that is seen in the photo immediately above,
in the background, behind Beth and Daryl.

On our return to Glasgow we met up with the Stewarts. This was their last night in Glasgow: they were to fly out the next day. We enjoyed a dinner together at one of the many fine Italian restaurants in Glasgow. I was wondering if they would be able to offer me a pint there, but this establishment had clearly been Scotlandized, and could.

After dining, we walked the Stewarts back to their hotel, the Premier Inn, traversing dark, empty streets of multi-storied buildings in the heart of City Centre, and offered our fond wishes for a safe and pleasant journey home.

When you are thousands of miles from your home, it is a wonderful thing to behold a wee bit of that which is familiar, in the faces of the people who have joined in the dance.

We made our way back to our hotel, but as the internet service was being its typically flaky self, we decided to avail ourselves of the free wi-fi at the Crystal Palace. The ladies shared the laptop, sipping their lady drinks, while I watched the post game broadcast of the football match which had just taken place, sippin' muh bair. Aye!

We had one more day left in our Glasgow journey. What were we going to do? The tours into the highlands were all full-day trips. I was game, but Beth and Daryl were not. They seem to be into this democracy thing. I've got it! Let's take a train somewhere. Let's go out to the coast. It was settled. I would walk up a block or so to Glasgow Central terminal and get train schedules of those lines which could take us out to the western coast of Scotland. As I bundled up, to set off to Glasgow Central, a thought struck me: I am leaving my two female family members in this predominately male environment. I wonder what I will find when I get back?

Sure enough, after only about 15 minutes being away to get the train schedule, I return to find one of Glasgow's finest standing at the table where I had left Beth and Daryl. He seemed a decent enough sort, in spite of being obviously intoxicated. Not one of those NEDS. When I made my appearance, he explained to me that he was telling of the cultural differences between Edinburgh and Glasgow. OK. Fine. I'm here now, you can move along. I don't remember how we parted company. I was probably a bit terse. Not an uncalled-for reaction, really.

Tuesday 6 April, 2010
I like rain. Rain is a way of life on these islands. Scotland and Ireland are like Hawaii, but without the heat. And, like Hawaii, no snakes (well, maybe Ireland and Hawaii are closer in that regard). It had been raining steadily most of the previous evening and it continued to do so now, as we awoke to our final day in Glasgow. Since traveling to Ireland and the U.K., I've doubted my commitment to rain, however. I've always considered myself a staunch Oregonian with respect to rain, but, for me, it has to have a season. There is a dry season: most of the year, in Southern California; and there is a wet season, which usually falls somewhere between January 7-12.

What the heck! Whatever we do, it will be a source of great fun! We're truly on vacation now!

[Suddenly a disembodied Scots voice calls out:
"Hey(!), Daryl, ye've just recalled uht thu Irish Dancin' Wuhrld Championships 2010 in Glahzgow, Scuhtluhnd! Whut're ye deen' next?"

"I'm going to Largs!!!"]

Meanwhile, back in reality:

Well, it sounded great, in theory. We looked at our train timetable and our maps and determined (partially on the recommendation of a hotel staff member) that the town of Largs was to be our target destination.

I say, "In theory," because it would have been a wonderful, serendipitous (haven't used that word in a while) expedition, except for the weather. Oh, well.

We make the trip through Paisley and toward the southwest, eventually arriving at the coast at the village of Saltcoats, at which point the route turns north and parallels the beach as we travel toward Largs.

I think we were in Largs for about an hour. Just long enough to walk around and have Beth's umbrella turned inside-out by the wind several times only to realize that we were not going to be doing much sightseeing that day. We were laughing the whole time, though. It was ridiculous to be out, playing the tourist, under such conditions.

The most exciting thing happening in Largs (other than the weather) during our visit: the docking of the ferry, Loch Shira. Her christening is documented on (where else?) youtube

We found our way to a bagel shop where we had lunch. Fish and chips for me--only the second time on this trip, at that.

On a bright, sunny day, Largs would appear to be a very attractive place to visit, but weather is neither detrimate nor determinate to ad hoc vacationing.

Beth in Largs with the offending (or, offended) umbrella.

After lunch, it was back out into the gale for a short walk back to the train station and Glasgow.

This evening, we take one final walk up Buchanan Street to the Hall. The Hall is deserted now. Worlds has been over for two days. There are no Irish dance girls in wigs and makeup walking in groups as there had been for most of the past week. I have that sense I always have after an event, like a party, after it is over. After all of the anticipation and participation, there is a void. The banner that proclaimed: "Failte! (welcome) World Irish Dancing Championships. Failte!" and had adorned the face of the hall during the course of the event has been struck. It feels like the sanctuary on Good Friday.

We continue our walk through the darkening twilight, up Sauchiehall and to St. Aloysius. There is a corner park across the street from St. Al's which we explore.

 We wind our way through the quiet streets of City Centre back to the neighborhood of our hotel.

We spend the better part of a couple of hours in our new home, the Crystal Palace, sharing the laptop, sipping drinks. No interruptions by tipsy patrons, though.We are seated in the corner of the room of the pub, glass walls form two sides of our sitting area. A rap on the window, from the outside, draws my attention. A young man is making hand gestures to me. It is clear what he wants: to know how a particular football match has ended. Using my finest American Sign Language (a shrug of the shoulders, in this instance), I assure him I do not know, to which he, in a rather long and drawn out series of odd looking gestures, seems to be making some sort of joke. I think. Of course, he could be cursing me in Scots and I don't know it.

Wednesday 7 April, 2010
The day of our return has arrived. At least it will still be Wednesday when we get home. We're packed and ready to go. A taxi stand is just up the street from the hotel. Our driver is the typical talkative individual we have come to expect. He asks how we like Glasgow. We love Glasgow. He speaks to the image Glasgow has in the U.K. "There's the usual way and there's the Glasgow way." We talk about the weather. He tells how he was in Orlando, Florida a couple of years previous, and explains how he couldn't believe the humidity there. Beth informs him how she and Daryl will be going to Orlando in July (at this writing they returned just one week ago).

It is in the Glasgow airport that I have my only taste of Scotch of the entire trip. A lad with a number of wee plastic cups about the size and shape of a communion cup, offers me a sample. I authoritatively swoosh the amber liquid into my mouth and suck in air to release the fullness of the bouquet. (What pretense!) It's good stuff, but what do I know? He's selling, but I'm not buying.

The trip home is as sweet as long-distance air flight can be. The second leg (London to L.A.) of our trip is hosted by Air New Zealand. The flight is filled with lucky folks who get to spend the next 24 hours of their lives in this very jet as it travels from London to L.A. and then on to Auckland. I just have this sense that this is going to be one of those airlines that, once you are on board, you don't have to pay for another thing. That knowledge is refreshing in this day of vending machines on airplanes.

We missed lunch in the terminal, so when the food began to be served, we are ready. Oh, so good! Have you ever done the happy dance in the seat of a plane? No, I wouldn't, either: undignified.

There was so much entertainment available on this flight that I got that sense seldom realized: it's just too much. I watched Avatar, Precious, Crazy Heart, and Hurt Locker, to which the reviews are: all right, OK, whatever, and: the jury's still out owing to technical difficulties, respectively.

God has blessed me with a thankful heart. We are extremely grateful to Him to have been allowed to make this most recent pilgrimage to our ancestral home. The dance has been the medium, and the message, and the vehicle of our journeys. We have a kind of symbiotic familial relationship: Daryl provides the muscle; God provides the means.

We sailed a ship through a star strewn sky
toward a Heathrow dawn.
We're Glasgow gone.

And children who did heed that call:

Over midlands, toward the uplands,

and so on, and on, and on

To dance they did(!) in the Royal Ball. 
We're Glasgow gone.

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