left on walnut

Sheep Heid Inn

I’ve read Roddy’s blog a few years now. He’s smart and funny and writes well. He travels a lot and goes to concerts and book festivals. Before he retired, Roddy was a librarian for Hariot-Watt University.

Roddy lives in Edinburgh. Lindsey gets him out on adventures. Wives can be good that way.

Lucky for us, Roddy and Lindsey were not on an adventure when we visited Edinburgh so they could have dinner with us. We met at the Sheep Heid Inn.

Sheep Heid is the oldest pub in Scotland, established in 1360. (This is not a typo. I’ll pause while those of us in the States try to grasp 1360.) This pub also had the distinction recently of serving a meal to the Queen. This surprised the folks in the pub. “Gobsmacked” is the word Lindsey used.

I knew we’d have a good time with Roddy and Lindsey . We ate and drank and laughed and told stories until they closed that little pub. The Queen didn’t revisit Sheep Heid for a second helping of lamb rump the evening we were there. That’s ok. Meeting our friends seemed royal enough.

PS: If you go, order the box-baked Camembert served with a cherry and thyme sauce.  I’ve prepared it a few times for friends since coming home. When I serve it, the topic of Sheep Heid just happens to come up.

 

Edinburgh

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After a week in Wales, Tom and David and I flew from Cardiff to Edinburgh. We stayed in New Town. The construction of New Town started in 1767. Expansive streets with names like George and Queen and Princes were built for the large homes of wealthy Scots. Narrower streets behind allowed servants to enter the homes from the back. These narrow streets, now closed to cars, are filled with pubs and shops and restaurants. Our apartment was located on Rose Street, the narrow street just behind Princes. From this central location, we could walk to everything. We walked to the National Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. We walked down the Royal Mile and into shops selling shortbread and Scottish cashmere. We walked to the Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle is home to the Stone of Destiny. This stone is a symbol of Scotland and the monarchy, even though it seems rather unremarkable. Our Liberty Bell is unremarkable, too, yet touching it still brings me to tears.

The Scottish National War Memorial feels like a chapel on the Castle grounds. We hush and look up at the names of the fallen soldiers carved on the walls.  Family members find their loved one and reach up to run their hands across the letters.

Overlooking Edinburgh, just beyond the Castle parapets, a little garden is set aside as a cemetery where soldiers, since the time of Queen Victoria, have buried their dogs.

Wales

In July, Tom and his brother and I flew to London and then took a train to Wales. We rented a car and drove this beautiful country for about a week. The whole of Wales is about the size of New Jersey.

  • Cardiff: We rented a car in Cardiff. David and I programmed the GPS and Tom practiced driving from the right side of the car. We ate porridge for breakfast at the Trade Street Cafe.
  • Swansea: We visited the birthplace and boyhood home of Dylan Thomas. Matthew, the curator, gave us a 3-hour private tour and told Thomas family stories. Florence gave birth to Dylan in the front bedroom. That room was warmer. Her daughter, Nancy, lay sick in the next room with the measles while her husband, David, was drunk at the pub.
  • Fishguard: We visited St. David’s Cathedral and walked the Pembrokeshire Coastal Pathway. We met Michael and Jeanette. They invited us to share their table in the little pub on High Street. Michael taught us about unpastureurized beers and talked about the recent Brexit vote. They like the Great British Baking Show as much as we do. The UK is several seasons ahead of us so Jeanette already knew about Mr. Hollywood running off with someone from the show.
  • Laugharne: Dylan Thomas wrote some of his later works in a boathouse. The coastline is beautiful here.
  • Brecon Beacons: Parts of the castle in Brecon still stand. We stayed in the Castle Hotel. We drank beer on the rooftop and watched the sun set over Brecon Beacons, a national park.
  • Hay-on-Wye: The village of Hay is known for its second hand book shops. Our favorite, down a little side street, was Belle Books. The owner showed us photos of his dog, Belle. She died last year and he mourns her still.
  • Cowbridge: After lunch in Cowbridge, we returned the car and flew to Edinburgh.

The car’s GPS routed us using the shortest possible distance. Sometimes this meant one-lane roads lined with hedges. This seemed not to bother the onlooking sheep as much as it bothered our driver. Tom drew the line at taking the grassy lane, however, so we backtracked a bit.

 

 

 

Tools

When I first started gardening, I purchased a hoe like Uncle Raymond’s. A metal stirrup attached to a long wooden handle. His garden was the best I’ve seen. A little square of Eden, right in the back yard. He knew garden tools. My new hoe didn’t make my garden like  Uncle Raymond’s though.

I don’t know what happened to that hoe. I probably didn’t take care of it. As I’ve gotten older, I take better care of my tools. Dad taught me a lot about tools and machines and how they work.

Dad didn’t hang his tools just so. They might be on a pegboard or they might not. Maybe in the red tool box. Blades were always sharp, though. I have the stone he gave me to sharpen my knives with. Today I took apart my Felco pruners and used it to sharpen the blade.

A sacred rendezvous

WWI cemetery 3 copySome 150 miles northwest of Paris lies an American cemetery. Soldiers from World War I are buried there. Families don’t visit much. Families remember WWII veterans and go to Normandy. If you want to visit digitally, click on Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. When you zoom in, you see the rows and rows of crosses. These hills were once battlefields. Now they are home to boys who never came home.

The inscription on the chapel wall:

This chapel is erected by the United States of America as a sacred rendezvous of a grateful people with its immortal dead. 

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Easter, 1958

Easter 1958I was lucky. I got a lot hand-me-downs from my cousin, Carol.

Water is Life

Cambodian WellAs in most developing countries, Cambodians have little access to clean drinking water. We saw grass huts with jugs of cloudy water. Maybe the water was for washing. I suspect it was for drinking, too. With the help of Phal, our guide in Cambodia, Tom and I donated money for a well to be built in a Cambodian village.

Phal sent us a photo of the new well. It’s located in Tanorl Trorng, a village in the Soni Kum district, 25 miles east of Siem Reap, Angkor. Phal thanked us with this note:

We would like to say thank you for all your good heart. 
Your donation make our people life difference.
Water is life.

Python

While we were touring the Cambodian fishing village on the waters of Tanlé Sap, a father and his two kids motored up to our boat. The older boy sat in the front of the sampan. The younger son sat in the middle, with a live python draped around his neck. After everyone shot some photos, we tipped the dad a couple dollars and off they went.

Tonlé Sap Fishing Village

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On New Year’s Day, our biking group took a boat ride through Tonlé Sap, a fresh water lake in Cambodia. The lake is home to a fishing village.

Monkeys at Angkor Wat

Just as we were approaching the ancient temple of Angkor Wat, a monkey stole Cindy’s bottle of water right out of her hand. At the side of the path, he opened it and had a drink. He may be resourceful and smart, but he doesn’t know how to share.

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