Glasgow! Port Glasgow! Drumfucker! (Well, that’s how it sounded.) Terrific trains. Lovely people. It was from 10 Argyle Street in Port Glasgow that my traveling companion’s late granddad James, a shipbuilder’s son, embarked on January 9, 1926, aged 6, for “Ellis Island and beyond” (beyond, in this case, being New Jersey) and we had come for a look. The home had been turned into a carpet warehouse, but it was still fun finding it and imagining life there 90 years ago . . . so much of the architecture unchanged.
Edinburgh! (“Athens of the North”) We stormed the castle . . . if walking a mile uphill and pausing for ice cream can be considered “storming” . . . only to arrive just as a rag-tag regiment of musketeers, complete with drummer and cannoniers, appeared to reenact a few moments of the siege of 1640. We befriended a pikeman — the guy who wedges the butt of an 18-foot pike against his boot with the point angled low, so as to scare the horses into bucking their riders off, and/or simply to drive the pike through the invader. It turned out, no, they did not do this six times a day, 7 days a week, for the tourists; just once in a rare while and we happened to catch it. This was only our pikeman’s second time “performing” (a bit of a piker?); he is a history buff and a volunteer who does reenactments for fun. Once he’s had more experience, they may let him fire a musket. Which is not as simple as it looks in the movies. For one thing, you need to keep a fuse lit in one hand (or your teeth) the whole time you’re fighting, even if it’s raining (which in Scotland is sort of more or less always), without letting it touch any of the gun powder you’re shoving down the barrel of your firearm, lest you accidentally explode.
We saw the Honours of Scotland! Which had been unseen for 111 years when in 1818 Sir Walter Scott and some others opened a chest thought to contain them . . . but . . . but . . . and it did! (Take that Geraldo Rivera!)
We happened in on a live traditional foot-stomping Scottish band session (complete with harp and violins) at Waxy O’Connor’s — awesome.
We befriended whoever was drinking next to us . . . it was such a relief not to have to hit them up for campaign contributions, though they all appeared to be Democrats at heart, horrified by Trump and the rest . . . a psychologist author and his retired-teacher wife Kim . . . a fine-print publisher and his wife, up to visit their granddaughter at university . . . young blokes galore . . .
Did you know that the Scots invented the bicycle? That Thomas Blake Glover, “the Scottish Samurai,” drove the industrial development of modern Japan? That Sean Connery, Alexander Graham Bell, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and thus Sherlock Holmes) were all born in Edinburgh? As was Harry Potter, in Nicholson’s Cafe where J.K. wrote much of it?
See: I Never Knew That About Scotland, by Christopher Winn. In addition to the bike and the telephone, Scottish inventors gave us, he says, the television, radar, the steam engine, pneumatic tyres, penicillin, logarithms — and savings banks!
But not, oddly, as Google reveals, Scotch tape.
Now in Amsterdam, where tonight’s debate coverage begins live on CNN International at 2:30am.
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Life is too short to be small.~Disraeli
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