Archive for January, 2012

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Perhaps you’re still wondering about our Christmas in Scotland.  Perhaps not.  It seems VERY long ago, but it was pretty golden.  You really should see it.

Kevin explained that we were staying at our friends’ beautiful house in St. Monans, Fife, where we spent a semester two and a half years ago.  This time, they very kindly Christmassed up the place before they left town, so we had a lovely tree to gaze upon, and a gazelle mask with a jolly Rudolph nose.

The Old Kirk, the 800-odd year old church in the village, was our first destination.

The morning Kevin drove the Taylors to the airport, the girls and I decided to catch the nativity service.  I think their faces convey how unfamiliar “church” is to our heathen darlings, but they do love a good play:


We had a week before Christmas to lollygag and visit old friends and locales, then a week after Christmas to do the same, so it was a pretty luxurious stretch of Scotland-time.  It was strange, of course, a return to what was once a home for us.  It felt like both time and space travel, with our girls strangely older and taller in the same places we’d been once before.  But it was also deeply comforting to realize this experience was not lost, that St. Monans was (is) still there, waiting.

As Christmas eve approached, we trotted through the Christmas-lit village  to the Old Kirk again, for the candlelit Carols-and-Lessons service.   It was especially poignant to me that the minister had a terrible cold and so while he rested at home, the service was run by the congregation: different members took turns coming to the podium and reading passages while a lady from the parish kept things orderly and announced each song.

for the archivists among you

The girls loved it, and belted out “The Holly and The Ivy” (my favorite) with great passion.  I was thrown by the different tunes attached to lyrics I thought I knew.  But  Strummer’s enormously loud and totally uncovered yawn at about Carol Ten  had the entire bench quivering with giggles.  And at the end, warm mince pies.  Cups of red wine.    My kind of church service:  no minister, 75% singing, candlelight, and food and drink at the end.

We had a super day in St. Andrews, doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, having tea in places with tea cozies this amazing:

… and then we went to the “Panto” show Kevin mentioned.  Our tickets were a gift from our beloved hosts — the Panto is a British tradition I had no idea about, which was a major hoot, and involved such things as cross-dressing ladies named “Widow Twanky” with a hoop skirt made of underpants, punk rock bad guys, audience participation (“Widow Twanky, you look swanky!” we were to shout every time she was introduced), and other silliness.

We.  Loved.  It.  In fact, the girls still know all the words to the “Boogie Woogie Washer Woman.”  Anyway, then we headed back out into St. Andrews to get some of our favorite Indian food, which  came with Christmas crackers filled with hats, moustaches, and further silliness:

By this point, you must be as ready for Christmas as Barrow and Strummer were.  I suspect the next little bit will look a lot like Christmas the world over.  Cookies and milk, Santa’s haul, blurry photos of little children bouncing around and hugging their swag.  So let’s just do a montage:

cookies, milk, and cheese doodles.


These last two shots remind me how much Christmas in Scotland was really about Ireland.  Santa brought Strummer a bodhrán and Barrow a hurley and ball.  Barrow’s gift to Strummer was a “little Irish luck” cup with a sweetly treacly verse to “A Sister.”  Strummer’s gift to Barrow was a “Galway Fairy,” handmade of wool, fabric, beads, and wire, and bought at the Galway Farmer’s Market. The girls’ gift to me was a watch they had bought on Shop Street, and Kevin’s gift from me was Tribe, a book of photographs of Galway.

After a *superb* (thankyouverymuch) Christmas dinner, we were able to spend another relaxing week together, the girls grooving on their Christmas gifts, Kevin and I enjoying a break from teaching and writing.

princesses discover legos

While the wild Scottish wind kept us indoors much of the time, we took advantage of the bright days to walk the coastal paths and visit the local villages a bit more.

dessert at the Kilconquhar pub

walking to the windmill

new saucer swing!

at the salt pans

striking a pose

old haunts

collected bits of St. Monans to bring home

Scotland was full of hellos and goodbyes, usually happening at the same time.

Our departure was also a return.

Though it took about 22 hours to get home (and all three flights were on time!), it also happened so mind-bogglingly fast.

These last two photos, for example, are right next to each other in my camera :

airport hotel in Edinburgh, January 1, 2012

Rochester airport, January 2, 2012

How did THAT happen?

So it goes.

And so, to quote Billy Pilgrim again (and the Beatles),

Hello. Good-bye.  Hello.  Good-bye.


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